In the wake of the threat by aviation unions- National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) to disrupt the operations of Arik Air on Monday, 14th of September, the management of Arik Air has written to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige seeking for the understanding and cooperation of the workers’ unions while explaining some key issues in the disagreement
The Receiver Manager of Arik Air, Capt. Roy Ilegbodu in a letter stated that the unions’ leadership has abused their position without exhausting various channels of engagement, discussion, and consensus and their actions is unlikely to yield the best outcomes for the staff, company and even its passengers. He stated further that the issues in dispute cannot pass the test of fairness as it only affects less than 20 staff out of a work force of over 1600.
The letter further explained that prior to Arik Air Ltd going into receivership, employment letters detailed the approved emoluments of staff however. However, since the commencement of the receivership, this has been expanded by the introduction of policies to create best practice work environments to deliver top notch services.
Ilegbodu noted that the management has been in discussion with various staff groups and unions to have these policies codified into Staff Conditions of Service but the only area of conflict was a request by unions for a terminal benefit scheme over and above the requirements of the Pension Act
According to the receiver manager, the only outstanding area of difference is the request by the unions for a terminal benefit scheme over and above the requirements of the Pension Act. The unions had requested for an independent retirement benefit scheme that will be wholly funded by the airline where retiring, resigning and terminated staff will receive a lump sum payment upon exit that will in some cases double the joint contribution of management and staff under the Pension Act of 2004 as amended.
In his words, he said, “While it is the right of staff to share in the prosperity of a company, the request for an additional retirement scheme from a loss making company, in receivership and whose operations are supported by creditors over and above legal requirements is simply onerous.
“Given the cost driven challenges in the aviation sector that have seen majority of airlines fold up in the past years, the request by the unions will set an unsustainable standard for other airlines that are struggling to survive in these difficult times.
The letter continued, “Notwithstanding, management restates its commitment to appropriate staff welfare and will do its best to keep workers motivated within the limit of available resources. We can report with much gratitude that financial creditors have all suspended demands for repayment to ensure the stability of the airline. We are also enjoying the support of fuel suppliers, aircraft parts suppliers and various Maintenance, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul organizations (MRO) while carefully managing the COVID-19 challenge.
The management made a call to the staff for support and understanding especially in these trying times.
The letter which was primarily directed to the Minister of Labour and Employment also had in copy the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika and the Director General of NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu