The ongoing crisis in the Nigeria’s aviation industry may linger as a coalition of aviation workers’ unions stage protests at airports nationwide against the anti-labour clauses in the new aviation bills currently awaiting the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The new bills will govern affairs of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and four other aviation agencies.
The unions are requesting for the withdrawal of the bill over what they describe as a ‘subtle attempt’ to restrain their powers and obliterate unionism, threatening to proceed with industrial action if their requests are not granted before the next 14 days.
The development had left passengers stranded, as they struggle to get the necessary information, and flight directives amongst others in the airport.
It was gathered that the coalition is made up of the Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and Amalgamated Unions of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE).
The contentious clauses read: “All services which facilitate and maintain the smooth, orderly and safe take-off, flight and landing of aircraft, embarkation and disembarkation and evacuation of passengers and cargo respectively in all aerodromes in Nigeria are hereby designated as essential services pursuant to the provisions of Section 11(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered).
“The minister may, by regulations, prohibit all or such class or classes of workers, officers and other employees or persons, whether corporate or natural, engaged in the provision of services specified in subsection (1) of this section from taking part in a strike or other industrial action.
“The provisions of the Trade Disputes (Essential Services) Act, Cap. T9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 shall apply to service in the agency, facilities managed by the agency and in the implementation of this bill. There shall be no strikes, lock-outs, pickets, blockades, service disruptions, etc. of any kind within all facilities managed by the agency and where any labour dispute arises, such dispute shall be resolved by the agency.”
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Meanwhile, NUATE Secretary General, Ocheme Aba, noted that the implication of the clauses is that the bills grant powers to the minister of aviation to regulate trade unions and workers, in contradiction to the Trade Unions Act, 2004, which grants the minister of labour sole regulatory powers over trade union and industrial relations matters in Nigeria.
“It is clear that the contentious clauses smuggled into the aviation agencies’ bills have no moral or legal basis for being there. The lame reference to Section 11(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Public Order and Public Security) is poignantly pretentious.
“Its attempt to enable the minister of aviation to usurp the powers of the minister of labour is diabolically disingenuous. And its bold assault on the rights of trade unions and hapless workers renders the intended law a demonstration of an ultimate disservice by public officers. Therefore, the intended laws must be prevented from breathing any air of acceptance.
“The leadership of the Senate and House Committees on Aviation should withdraw the bills and expunge the contentious clauses before approval by President Buhari,” Aba added.
Ifunanya Ikueze is an Engineer, Safety Professional, Writer, Investor, Entrepreneur and Educator.