Labour Unions Accused of Frustrating Aero’s Resumption

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Chinedu Eze

The National Union of Air Transport Association (NUATE) and the Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN) have been accused of stalling the plan by Aero management to resume schedule flight services.

The move by Aero to lay off some workers to be able to operate with lean workforce that would match its lean resources had been resisted by the unions, who insisted that workers would not be laid off. The unions also vowed that Aero must pay the workers’ their entitlements.

On September 1, 2016, the airline had suspended schedule service due to cash crunch and its inability to source funds to offset the cost of the maintenance of its aircraft in maintenance facilities overseas.

After several meetings between the Aero management, the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), which took over the airline, aviation unions and the Minister of State, Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, it was agreed that everything must be done to resuscitate the airline.
It was expected that the unions would relinquish some of those demands in order to allow the airline resume operation. The resolution was reached after interventions by the Minister and the National Assembly.
However, NUATE and ATSSSAN have denied the allegation, insisting they are in talk with Aero to see how the airline could resume flight services again.

THISDAY spoke to the Chairman of ATSSSAN, Aero branch, Lewis Emakpor, who confirmed that labour was in talks with Aero management and expressed optimism that they would reach amicable resolution and the airline would bounce back.

“Before that crisis that led to the suspension of scheduled services by Aero we were into negotiation. We agreed with management that the staff was too much and we were in the middle of negotiation when the airline stopped operation,” Emakpor said.
On Monday aviation unions, including NUATE, ATSSSAN and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and engineers (NAAPE) also held meetings with Aero management. They are yet to reach an amicable resolution to the disagreement.

NAAPE General Secretary, Ocheme Aba on Tuesday told THISDAY that the association had already reached agreement with the Aero management and does not constitute a stumbling block to the resumption of schedule services by the airline, adding the airline should negotiate with NUATE and ATSSSAN.

In fact, Aba said NAAPE is looking forward to Aero’s come back, even as it said it would help to provide technical service for the maintenance of the airline’s aircraft.

“Whatever they conclude with NAAPE and ATSSSAN we shall stand by it. Aero has to be alive before it can give succour to any of the stakeholders or the employees. We are involved in finding solutions to the airline’s problem. NAAPE is planning to set up structures to alleviate the airline’s current maintenance challenges. We are putting together international partnerships that will enable Aero maintain its aircraft locally. This will be possible if the airline cooperates with the union,” Aba said.

He expressed optimismthat the plan for Aero to maintain its aircraft locally would work and this is aimed at curbing high expenses overseas, which involves foreign exchange. He said Aero is a brand that should not be allowed to go under.