Workers May Lose Jobs over Airport Closure

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Chinedu Eze

There are indications that airlines, handing companies and other service providers in the aviation industry might lay off some of their workers or send them on compulsory leave without pay, following the suspension of their operations to avert the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the past three weeks Nigerian airlines have been recording low load factor and by the end of today almost all the domestic airlines would ground operations and majority of their workers would either work from home or go home and rest, while waiting for next directive from government.

From all indications, each company or airline is expected to take a decision on how to deal with the labour issues. But reactions from employers in the industry show that majority of the workers would not get their full time pay cheques while the forced holiday or redundancy lasts.

The President of Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN), Ahmadu Illitrus, told THISDAY that while the airlines and other employers in the aviation industry may not out rightly sack their workers, they may place them on half pay or they stay at home without pay.

“Now that it is indicative that it is a total shut down, I can assure you that it won’t be a job loss that will happen in the industry, but workers will be sent home and resume after the order has been lifted.

“This is a force majeure, so employers will not declare total redundancy. They could tell the workers, stay at home, we will not pay you full salary, but you resume work we start. We anticipate it will get to stage employers will declare partial redundancy,” he said.

Illitrus said many airline workers were not in the labour unions so it would be difficult to fight for them to protect against exploitation by the employers.

He said the unions have good relationship with major aviation handling companies whose workers are in the unions, assuring that labour and the management of the companies would reach a compromise that would benefit both the workers and their employers.

“We have had discussions with the affiliate chairmen of the handling companies, no management has approached us, but if things get tough they will come. We have good relationship with the management of handling companies and we hope that by the time we overcome all these the jobs will come back,” Illitrus said.

Also, THISDAY spoke with the Managing Director of Skyway
Aviation Handling Company PLC, Basil Agboarumi, on the plan the company has for the workers during the sit at home period.

He said that SAHCO told some of the workers to go and come back when work resumes, saying it was the sanest thing to do.
“Those whose jobs are not critical were told to go home because what is important is the safety of the workers and their families. That was what we did when international operations were closed and that is what we are going to do for the domestic in order not to endanger the lives of our staff. Cargo service is still operating but it is a slim operation,” he said.

Also a senior official of the Nigerian Aviation Handling PLC (nacho aviance) told THISDAY that the company has engaged skeletal staff to handle the few cargoes coming into the country.

“We have had a meeting with the unions. We are taking away small allowances from the salary of our workers during the redundancy period. Such allowances like hazard allowance which they will not need while they are at home. So we have scaled down the salaries,” the official said.

The spokesman of Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa, said the company does not have plan to sack workers, noting that the airline had lost about 50 per cent of its revenue and load factor, but still retains its workforce.