FG, Airlines, Telecoms Operators to Meet over Workers’ Grievances

Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The federal government is to meet with telecommunication and airline companies this week to try and resolve issues relating to job losses and welfare of workers, threatening to ground the sectors.

THISDAY gathered that while the meeting with the telecoms operators would hold today, the airlines would meet with the federal government tomorrow.

For the airline operators who are seeking ways to cut costs based on the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, the federal government had directed that they meet with their employees to agree on the terms of the disengagement of workers that accept voluntary exit.

A top official of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment told THISDAY at the weekend that the airlines were mandated to meet with the unions in the sector to negotiate the pay-off terms and revert to the ministry this week.

According to the official, the companies were asked to come up with a cost-saving deal reached under the collective bargaining agreement with the unions.

“Salaries of staff of the airlines are denominated in dollars. So, they will have to negotiate and work out its equivalent in naira and agree on other welfare packages for those staff that have opted for a voluntary exit,” he said.

The airlines and the unions in the aviation had met with the federal government’s team led by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, and agreed to go back to negotiate a possible downsizing of their workforce and the packages due for those on voluntary exit.
At the meeting held Thursday, the federal government advised airlines to consider negotiating salary reduction with workers rather than retrenchment.

Ngige told the airline operators that the federal government was determined to ensure that there is industrial peace in all sectors of the economy and as such would not encourage the sacking of workers by any company.

He said the meeting was called to discuss the disquiet in the aviation sector due to an industrial dispute between the airlines and their employees.

He urged the operators to allow their employees to exercise their right to unionisation, as Section 40 of Nigerian Constitution guaranteed that.
“We encourage the airline operators to allow members of staff who desire to go into unions to do so, as belonging to unions is a voluntary thing. Obstructing them from doing so is to curtail their fundamental rights as enshrined in our constitution,” he had added.

On the other hand, the management of MTN Nigeria and members of the workers’ unions would meet with Ngige today to resolve the dispute between the company and its employees.

According to the schedule for the talks issued by the Deputy Director in charges of Press and Public Relations at the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mr. Charles Akpan, the talks with telecommunications firm would hold in the afternoon.