By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The federal government has intervened in the brewing dispute between airline companies and unions in the aviation industry over retrenchment of workers.
Addressing the meeting involving the Ministry of Aviation, union leaders and airline companies in Abuja, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said the federal government is determined to ensure that there is industrial peace in all sectors of the economy.
He said the meeting was called to discuss the disquiet in the aviation sector between the airlines and their employees.
Ngige said there was no doubt that the airline industry has been hard-hit by the disruptions occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, but that workers should not be made to bear the brunt alone.
The minister stated that discussion would be centred on the issue of threat of pay cut and outright sack of airline workers by their employers.
According to Ngige, “Before any organisation embarks on retrenchment of staff, it must have to negotiate it with them and make sure it conforms to the terms of employment.”
Ngige said though the government is yet to release the funds meant for palliative to airlines, they are already getting tax rebates, adding that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is offering some COVID-19 stimulus package.
He said the federal government is not in support of any sack, instead such organisations are encouraged to negotiate reduced pay package as a means of ameliorating the present harsh economic situation.
The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) President, Ayuba Wabba, thanked the minister for being very proactive in apprehending industrial disputes.
He said the congress has always encouraged collective bargaining dialogue in resolving labour disputes.
The NLC boss accused some of the organisations of hiding under COVID-19 pandemic to declare staff redundancy.
Wabba said there is a law on redundancy, adding that in the event of application of policy, organisations must be made to adhere strictly to the provisions of the law.
Speaking particularly about the situation in Arik Airline, Wabba said the government should prevail on the company to jettison the plan to sack workers, even when the airlines have been promised palliative.
On his part, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Aviation said the ministry had met with some stakeholders to try to resolve the issues.
He explained that certain tax exemptions are being considered for the airlines to cushion the effects of COVID-19 pandemic.