Aviation unions have issued a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government in response to what they claim are anti-labor clauses in recently amended aviation bills.
The unions claim that clauses inserted into the bills give the Minister of Aviation veto power over issues affecting trade unions in the industry.
They asked the federal government to remove the clauses, claiming that they were an attempt to silence and control unions.
“All services which facilitate and maintain the smooth, orderly, and safe take-off, flight and landing of aircraft, embarkation and disembarkation, and evacuation of passengers and cargo respectively in all aerodromes in Nigeria are hereby designated as essential services pursuant to the provisions of Section 11(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999,” one of the clauses states (as altered).
“By regulations, the Minister may prohibit all or any class or classes of workers, officers, and other employees or persons, whether corporate or natural, engaged in the provision of services specified in subsection (1) of this section from participating in a strike or other industrial action.”
However, the unions claim that the clauses violated international labor laws and amounted to a usurpation of the Ministry of Labour’s responsibilities.
Workers held peaceful protests in some airports across the country to express their grievances and press their demands for the “removal of obnoxious essential services clauses from aviation agencies’ bills/acts.”
Some carried placards imploring the President not to sign the bills. Other placards read, among other things, “Our voices must be heard” and “Prohibition of Aviation Union activities is evil.”
During the protest in Lagos, Ocheme Aba, the General Secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees, stated that classifying aviation workers as essential services personnel contradicts the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) classification.
He stated that the withdrawal of services by personnel that endangers lives could be classified as essential, which the transportation sector does not meet.
Only workers in the air traffic control services, he claims, qualify as essential due to their advisory function to aircraft in flight.
He claimed that aviation unions have aided the Nigerian Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress in their efforts to reverse an ugly trend that seeks to silence aviation workers.