COVID-19: This Is Not The Time For Threats, Strike, Aviation Minister Advised labour Unions

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Minister of Aviation Hadi Sirika has Advised unions against issuing threats and carrying out industrial actions over issues bordering on conditions of service.

Speaking during the third national delegate conference of the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN), held in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State on Saturday, Sirika, who was represented by the Commissioner of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB).

Akin Olateru, said the serious challenge posed by COVID-19 demands that all stakeholders work together to fashion out a viable pathway to a strong and healthy aviation industry that will offer everybody, including workers the desired dividends.

He said the forecast growth for the Nigeria Air Transport market was 174% in the next 20 years and if met, would have supported approximately $4.7 billion of GDP and over 555,000 jobs.

But however, the pandemic hit and aviation became one of the major casualties of COVID-19 and that in an industry that is known for low margins, especially the airline sector where labour is one of the largest costs, lowering labour costs is very attractive.

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He said the sector is in a period of recovery, so this is not the time for threats and spate of industrial actions which he insists will only further inhibit the growth the industry so badly needs.

‘IATA records show that as of 2018, air transport in Nigeria supported 241,000 jobs with a gross value added to GDP of US $1.7b. The forecast growth for the Nigeria Air Transport market was 174% in the next 20 years. If met, this would support approximately $4.7 billion of GDP and over 555,000 jobs.

‘However, sadly and unpredictably, the pandemic hit and aviation became one of the major casualties of COVID-19, which all but paralysed the world and its economies between 2020 and 2021.

‘The serious challenge posed by COVID-19 demands that all stakeholders work together to fashion out a viable pathway to a strong and healthy aviation industry that will offer everybody, including workers the desired dividends.

The unions have a critical role to play in the growth and sustenance of the aviation industry, as their members constitute the majority of the workers who toil day and night to ensure the smooth running of the industry.

‘It is agreed that unions exist to serve the interests of their members. However, in an industry that is known for low margins, especially the airline sector where labour is one of the largest cost, lowering labour costs becomes very attractive and unions will always kick. Yet, the industry needs labour just as labour needs the industry.

‘We are in a period of recovery, so this is not the time for threats and spate of industrial actions which will only further inhibit the growth the industry so badly needs.

‘The government, employers and labour must work together for the best interest of the aviation industry. This is what can guarantee job security and prosperity for stakeholders.

In 2020, at the peak of the pandemic, the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) representing aviation and other transport workers worldwide, joined forces with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents aviation employers , to chart a course for the future of aviation.

‘We must all first work together to save aviation and keep the global supply chains going. Our unions and aviation management should prioritise collaborative dialogue to ensure the industry’s financial health and the consequent preservation and growth which will eventually enable aviation employers to provide acceptable conditions of service to their workers.

‘We shall continue to carry labour along in policies and strategic moves to reposition the industry. We also expect the unions to reciprocate this gesture with a bit more consideration and support in the best interest of the aviation sub-sector,’ Sirika said.

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