ARIK Air resumed flights yesterday 17 hours after its operations were grounded nationwide by three aviation unions.
The unions were National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN).
The resolution of the impasse followed intervention by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
The meeting, which was attended by representatives of the unions and owner of the airline, Sir Arumemi Ikhide, at NCAA headquarters, was chaired by the authority’s Director of Operations and Training, Captain Abdulahi Sidi.
It was agreed the airline should resume operations.
In a communique, it was resolved that Arik Air pay outstanding October and November salaries before the end of year.
The unions were asked to submit acknowledged copies of the letters forwarding membership forms of their prospective members to the NCAA and forward same to the management of Arik Air.
The communique reads: “A committee to review the circumstances of all laid off employees, made up of one member from each union and Arik was constituted to be inaugurated on January 10, 2017 .
“The Hawker fleet employees are exempted from the review.”
The workers were protesting alleged failure by the airline to allow its workers to join unions, and unpaid arrears of seven months.
Amid tight security, the unions barricaded entrance of the airline’s headquarters in Lagos, singing solidarity songs and displaying placards.
At the domestic wing, hundreds of passengers were stranded.
Conservative estimate puts Arik Air loss at N2.5 billion, which would have accrued from ticket sales on its over 100 daily domestic flights.
At the international wing, regional flights in the early hours were affected.
Thousands of passengers, at several airports nationwide, were affected by the protest.
The protesters displayed placards, some inscribed with: “Arik owes staff seven months’ salary”, “Defaults in taxes and other statutory deductions”, “Criminalises trade unionism and union membership: Sacking union executives at will”, “No salary, no flight Arik Air”, “Modern slavery/ apartheid in Arik Air: We say no to slavery”, “Every worker has the right to protection against unjustified dismissal in accordance with union laws and national laws and practices”, among others.
Some workers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they had been putting up with anti-labour practices for a long time and “this is just the climax”.
Addressing reporters, NUATE’s General Secretary Mr. Olayinka Abioye said: “This is a long awaited strike in the sense that several months back, we initiated industrial action against Arik management and they quickly invited us to a meeting to sort out some of these things. It seems the man that was asked to interface between management and labour failed.
“We felt we need to cry to higher authorities in Nigeria to save our souls. We cannot imagine that there would be an airline in the country’s aviation industry that would be owing workers for seven months and nobody cares about it…”
He added, among others, that those who joined the unions were being sacked without due regard to labour law.
“We are calling for their re-instatement and payment of staff salaries before we start any discussion with management.”
In a statement by the airline’s spokesman, Mr. Adebanji Ola, Arik Air said the union leadership earlier writte the management of Arik Air on their grievances and a meeting was scheduled between the two parties today.
“The unions, however, did not wait for the meeting or outcome of the meeting before embarking on such disruptive and strong-arm tactics against the airline.”