‘Disagreement over Airport Concession May Hurt Aviation Industry’

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Chinedu Eze
The present disagreement over issues concerning the concession of airports may pit aviation workers against government, members of the trade union have warned.

Currently labour has become intransigent over the issue, insisting that there is lack of sincerity in the whole process. On the other hand, the government has said there was no going back on the matter, stressing that the initiative would protect the interest of the country, while adding value through the injection of private sector funds for the development of the airport infrastructure.

Addressing the workers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) recently, Secretary General of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Ocheme Abba, alleged that not only that the federal government was not following any due process, but it is not even concessioning the airports to genuine investors.

He insisted that there was no protection of workers’ interest in the concession plan and reiterated that labour and workers do not support the concession plan.
Abba told THISDAY in a telephone interview on Wednesday that labour was not just fighting to protect the job of FAAN workers but it wants to save the airports for Nigerians because government officials should not be allowed to covet “our common patrimony.”

He gave example with the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) of Nigeria and noted that while the workers were properly settled, Nigerians are still suffering the electricity hiccups, which the privatization promised to end, remarking that Nigeria should not be allowed to continue to do business that way.

“The issue is that the interest of the workers is on one side, while the interest of Nigeria is on the other side. So what will happen to the airports is a pertinent question than the narrow interest of securing severance pay for the workers of FAAN,” he added.
Abba also observed that as the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika said FAAN workers would not lose their jobs, saying, “it means that the plan to concession the airport did not have provision for the severance pay of the workers.”

According to him, the assurance that the workers would not lose their jobs was a gimmick.
“If we don’t come to agreement, FAAN workers will surely go on strike and that means the shutting down of the airspace, which will incur huge losses, but it is better we suffer today to safe our tomorrow,” Abba told THISDAY.

However, Sirika had told the House of Representatives that only 14.29 per cent of the total workforce of FAAN working at the terminal buildings, which according to him, are the items for concession would be transferred to the would-be concessionaires, but also insisted that the concession exercise would not lead to mass sack of workers as claimed by some stakeholders in the sector.

He said as new terminal building was coming up at the four major airports, which facilities would be first concessioned, more personnel would be needed.
The Minister also said the concessionaires would sign agreement with service providers in the industry, like the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) to ensure that efficient service is provided by these agencies.

“FAAN will negotiate benefits to be paid with the unions before completion of the handover. Traffic will increase as a result of increased efficiency and expansion, costs will reduce due to efficient operations and FAAN will be paid its own share of Passenger Service Charge (PSC) and security levy directly from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).”