Airlines Lose N1.5bn over Flight Disruptions by Labour

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Chinedu Eze

Domestic airlines said that they have lost about N1.5 billion so far this year due to the picketing of their operations. The operators were reacting to the forced closure of the domestic terminal at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, known as MMA2 on Wednesday.

They accused labour of not exhausting discussions before they picket airport facilities or airline operations, noting that it should be the responsibility of labour to ensure that organsiations that employ its members make money in order to pay their workers.

Head of Communications of Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa told THISDAY that around April this year labour disrupted the operations of the airline from morning till night on allegation of casualisation of workers.
Ezenwa said Dana Air lost so much revenue due to the disruption “but the unions could not find anything because we do not casualise workers. They disrupted our operations for nothing.”

On Wednesday when labour forced the close of MMA2 over the sacking of 27 workers by Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL), which built and is operating the terminal, airlines said that they lost over N600 million to the disruption.

“Look at it this way, Dana Air operates nine flights from MMA2, Max Air, four flights, Azman Air, four flights, Medview, two , Aero Contractors, five flights and Arik Air, two flights. All these flights were disrupted on Wednesday and that is a total of 26 flights. Just imagine the disappointment to the passengers and if you monetise what passengers have lost it will be in multimillion because the business activities of most of them were disrupted,” Ezenwa said.

For weeks BASL and aviation unions have been drawn in battle over the sack of workers for the former, which said that it had to lay off the workers due to the challenging economic times.

But labour insisted that BASL must recall the workers or its operations would be disrupted, which t it started last Wednesday.

Few months ago a petition jointly signed by the General Secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN), Olayinka Abioye and Frances Akinjole respectively, with the title, “Notice of Seven Day Ultimatum to Recall Sacked Workers Of Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited”, dated May 2, 2018, alleged that the terminal operator erred in sacking the workers for their intents to be a member of unions in the industry they work.

The petitioners said that with the notice, BASL was expected to reinstate all members of staff sacked arbitrarily, allow for unfettered unionisation of all interested members of staff in consonance with the applicable laws of Nigeria and meet with industrial unions to fashion the way forward as social partners in the industry.

Earlier this year, labour disrupted the flight operations of Air Peace over alleged refusal of the airline to allow its workers join the unions and the airline which operates several flights a day lost so much money.

Also during the recent strike over minimum wage, labour disrupted the operations of the airline at the General Aviation Terminal, Lagos airport that it lost about N60 million, according to a statement issued by its management.

Industry stakeholder and CEO of Centurion Securities, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd) advised labour to deal with BASL instead of disrupting the flights of airlines, thus leaving passengers stranded.

“Go to the corporate office of Bi-Courtney on the first floor of MMA2 to disrupt their work not the passengers, airlines and businesses in the terminal. I once talked to and advised the union officials that I am not against whatever they plan to do with the management of Bi-Courtney, but let the rights of other persons not directly related to the issues be infringed upon,” Ojikutu said.

An official of one of the airlines that operate at MMA2 told THISDAY, “I don’t know who will call these unions to order. The eateries at the terminal today lost millions of naira. They cooked meals for the day, waiting for their customers when labour disrupted activities at the terminal. Something must be done to stop this.”