The management of Arik Air has requested the intervention of the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, on the industrial action planned by the aviation unions that will begin on Monday.
Arik Chief Executive Captain Roy Ilegbodu made the appeal in a letter written to the minister titled: “Meetings at Arik Air threaten to bring down tools on September 14” in Lagos on Sunday.
The aviation unions were the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Nigerian Air Transport Senior Personnel Services Association (ATSSSAN).
On Thursday, unions threatened to call Arik Air workers on strike on Monday, over alleged non-payment of staff wages since April after placing 90 percent of the workforce on compulsory leave. Ilegbodu appealed to the minister to intervene in seeking the understanding and cooperation of the workers’ unions.
“We remain committed to protecting the airline and ensuring a safe and conducive work environment for our shareholders.
“We will also protect the interest of the flying public for a safe, friendly and punctual travel experience,” he said.
Ilegbodu was concerned that the strike threat would come without extensive use of the various channels of participation, discussion, consensus and understanding that he described as flawed. He added that the planned strike by the unions is unlikely to produce the best results for staff, the company and its loyal passengers.
The airline boss further described the action by the unions as an abuse of the union leadership position. Ilegbodu pointed out that the disputed issues could not pass the fairness test and only affected, in the short term, less than 20 employees out of a workforce of more than 1600. He explained that before going to the Receivership, the employment letters they basically spelled out the approved staff emoluments.
Ilegbodu said that since the inception of the receivership, this has been expanded with the introduction of policies to create best-practice work environments to provide first-rate services.
He noted that management had been in discussions with various groups of staff and unions to have these policies codified in the staff conditions of service and had a stake on most issues.
Ilegbodu said the only outstanding area of difference was the unions’ request for a terminal benefits plan above the requirements of the Pension Law.
“They are requesting a separate retirement benefit plan that will be fully funded by the airline for personnel who retire, resign or terminate.
“This application will receive a lump sum payment upon exit that, in some cases, will double the joint contribution of management and staff under the Pensions Act of 2004, as amended.
“While staff have the right to share in the prosperity of a business, requesting an additional retirement plan from a losing, defaulting company whose operations are backed by creditors over and above legal requirements is simply onerous.
Given the cost-driven challenges in the aviation sector that have seen most airlines fail in recent years, the union’s request will set an unsustainable standard for other airlines struggling to survive in these times. difficult.
Ilegbodu said that nonetheless, management remained committed to the proper well-being of the staff and would do everything possible to keep the workers motivated within the limits of available resources.
He said the airline was grateful that financial creditors had suspended claims for reimbursement to ensure the stability of the airline.
The airline chief said he was also enjoying the support of fuel suppliers, aircraft parts suppliers, and various maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) organizations as he carefully managed the COVID-19 challenge.
According to him, this is the kind of understanding and support that we urge all of our staff to absorb so that we can seize the times and fly.
Ilegbodu thanked the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) and the vast majority of staff for their understanding and cooperation as they navigated the post-COVID-19 challenges.