‘Aviation Not Essential Service’, Union Replies Minister As Strike Enters Day 2

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One of the aviation unions on a two-day nationwide strike has described as “a fallacy”, a claim by the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika that the aviation sector is an essential service and should not embark on strike.

The General Secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Ocheme Aba, stated this on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme on Tuesday.

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The minister, had in January 2023, said with the new Act of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), industrial actions are illegal as aviation has been classified as an essential service.

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However, about three months after, aggrieved unions including NUATE, the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), amongst others embarked on strike on Monday.

Scores of flights have been affected in the country and thousands of local and international passengers stranded as protesting aviation unions grounded airports in Nigeria on Monday over the non-release of the reviewed Condition of Service, planned demolition of Dominion and EAN hangars, amongst sundry issues.

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The industrial action, which entered day 2 on Tuesday, has continued to leave many passengers at the receiving end of the two disagreeing elephants – the Federal Government and the striking unions.

Commenting on the industrial action, Aba said, “The meeting of Sunday was deadlocked because all the government present because nobody could give a guarantee of when the Conditions of Service for the agencies will be released. So, we were also unable to give any assurances of not going on strike.

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“However, we understand that the Salaries and Wages Commission has also convened another meeting with the agencies today. We are not invited to the meeting so we don’t know what discussions are ongoing and how that will pan our relevant to the situation at hand.”

“Secondly, with regards to aviation being an essential service provider, this is a fallacy, it’s not correct at all.

“The International Labour Organisation through its official instrument of action has already defined what essential service is and has also clearly defined that aviation is not an essential services provider except the services provided through air control,” he added.

The NUATE secretary said an essential service provider is one through which its withdrawal can affect the lives of groups of people.

Conversely, he said, “Aviation does not provide such service except through air traffic control,” he explained.

“For example, it an air traffic controller says airplane should not land, you might be putting to risk the people who are in the aircraft. But when you say aircraft should not take off, you are not putting anybody’s life at risk and the services that airlines provide is not different from the services that Ekenedilichukwu or any transport company provides.”

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