Air Peace Workers Resist Unionisation as Labour Pickets Airline


Chinedu Eze

The efforts of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) to disrupt the operations of rising Nigeria’s airline, Air Peace thursday failed when it became clear that the workers of the company was not willing to join the labour unions.

General Secretary of NUATE, Olayinka Abioye, however said the intention of the union was not to stop the operations of the airline, contrary to earlier threat the union made, saying that it would picket Air Peace, Medview Airline and Overland Airways.

NUATE also alleged that these airlines are involved in the casualisation of workers, which Air Peace denied.
Yesterday morning, members of the union drove their vehicle to the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) of the Lagos airport and stationed it a distance away from the terminal gate, where Air Peace operates from, singing in high voices and honking the horns of their vehicles.

In an earlier statement, the spokesman of Air Peace, Chris Iwarah, said the workers of the airline had resolved that they would not join labour unions and that the unions should recognise that the workers have the legal right to decide whether to join the unions or not.

But the presence of riot police and other security operatives made it obvious that passenger movement would not be hindered by the activities of the union members.

“Without a doubt, we recognise the inalienable right of our staff to decide whether or not they wish to be members of any of the unions in the industry. It is the responsibility of the unions to sell themselves to our members of staff and not our obligation to compel them to join any group the law has not mandated them to belong. It is high time trade unions in the country knew that unionism is a matter of free choice; it can never be compelled.

“Rather than embarking on this ill-advised and disruptive plot to worsen the crisis in the nation’s aviation sector, we expect the unionists to challenge themselves to come up with outstanding ideas to advance the growth of the aviation industry in concert with efforts by the federal government to address the challenges of the sector.

Iwarah therefore called on the federal government and security agencies to call the unions to order to avoid a breach of the public peace, noting “we recognise the right of trade unions to peacefully embark on picketing where there is a trade dispute, such right does not extend to disrupting other people’s legitimate engagements, especially in this case where there is no trade dispute. The tool of picketing should not be used just for the fun of it.”

But Abioye said their intention was not to shut down the operations of any airline but had come peacefully to join in the ILO Day to sensitise workers on the need to be part and parcel of the union.