Drama as unions ‘block’ Aviation minister from holding town hall meeting
There was a mild drama at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos, yesterday when aviation unions shut down the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) in Lagos over issues of workers' welfare.
The unions included the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Association of Nigerian Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and the Nigerian Union of Pensioners (NUP).
It was gathered that the shutdown was to frustrate the planned meeting of the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, who was scheduled to hold a town hall meeting with the workers yesterday.
Daily Trust reports that as early as 9 am, the unions had already mobilised for the one-day strike at FAAN to escalate their demand for payment of salary arrears and other entitlements.
To prevent the Minister from holding the town hall meeting at the Freedom Square within the FAAN premises, the unions blocked the entrance to the venue with one of their vehicles although tents had already been mounted in preparation for the meeting.
NUATE President, Comrade Ben Nnabue, said, “The Minister cannot come and talk to our workers directly without us more so we are on strike today (Thursday).”
But speaking with Daily Trust, Director, Public Affairs in the Ministry of Aviation, James Odaudu, said the Minister was not barred from holding the meeting as the Minister did not show up there in the first place.
According to him, the meeting was supposed to be with the management and staff of FAAN.
He also stated that the Minister was not at war with the unions whose members are his employees, adding that whatever steps he takes is in their interest.
Daily Trust reports that the protesting workers sang solidarity songs and carried placards with inscriptions such as: “FAAN Mgt should stop playing politics with our CoS,” “FAAN workers need better motivation,” and “Our workers’ morale is low and poses danger to aviation safety,” among others.
Prior to this, there has been lingering issues between the
Minister and the workers’ unions following the planned concession of four major airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, and Port Harcourt.
While the FG insisted on the concession, the workers rejected it, saying it was not in the best interest of the country.
General Secretary of NUATE, Comrade Ocheme Aba, said that the airports have already been concessioned to the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).
He said, “CCECC and FAAN already have an arrangement of sharing the proceeds from the terminals. If you now concession these terminals to another company, who will pay the 60 percent of the proceeds on these terminals?”
Prior to yesterday’s botched town hall meeting, the unions had issued a seven-day ultimatum to the FAAN's management over salary arrears.
The unions also demanded immediate payment of outstanding salaries, full payment of salaries and pensions subsequently; immediate release of Conditions of Service (CoS) and immediate implementation of the new national minimum wage.