By Chinedu Eze
Labour unions in the aviation industry have threatened to ground flight operations all over the country to draw governmentâ€™s attention to the plight of ex-workers of the defunct Nigeria Airways Limited (NAL) who have been denied their entitlements after the liquidation of the airline despite the approval of N45 billion by the federal government.
The unions, National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) said they would not wait until the entire workers of the former national carrier died before taking steps to ensure that they were paid their benefits.
The unions expressed disappointment that many months after the approval for their payment, government has not taken any step to pay the former workers of the national airline whose invaluable contribution to the development of the aviation industry cannot be overstated.
They noted that the failure of the federal government to pay the N45billion final severance packages to the almost 6,000 workers of the defunct national carrier would force the workers to down tools in the next two weeks and jolt the aviation industry, which has enjoyed stability in the last few years,
The industry unions expressed their anger on the alleged insensitivity of the Ministry of Finance to pay the workers over 10 months after the approval of the sum by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
In a petition, dated March 19, 2018, signed by Ocheme Aba, for NAAPE, Comrade Frances Akinjole, ATSSSAN and Alayinka Abioye for NUATE and addressed to Senator Hadi Sirika, the Minister of State for Aviation and copied to Â the Ministers of Labour and Employment and Finance, the union leaders demanded urgent payment of the ex NAL workers.
Few months ago the ex-workers had accused the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun of willfully delaying the payment of the severance packages despite approval by the government.
The unions also pointed out that they had commenced the mobilisation of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and United Labour Congress (ULC) in a bid to gather wider support for the action.
The petitioner, however, commended Sirika for his concerted efforts to ensure that the workers were paid appropriately, but wondered why Adeosun had failed to pay the sum as approved.
â€œIt is disheartening that the Minister of Finance has unconsciously and negatively priotised the Presidentâ€™s directive on this matter. She has equally in a most uncaring manner, refused to heed all entreaties by the hapless ex-workers.
â€œNot even the cries of the growing list of the avoidable deaths and other afflictions created by their excruciating conditions of existence had pinched the ministerâ€™s rock hard hear. Our previous letters to the minister has failed to move her just as earlier letter from the NLC on the matter.
â€œAs we can no longer wait for all the ex-staff of the Nigeria Airways to die before entitlements are paid, we are therefore, compelled to force Adeosun to come to terms with the reality of the situation and be rid of her gross insensitivity,â€ the unions said in the petition.