Aviation trade unions on Thursday shut down the operations of Caverton Helicopters at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport , Lagos over alleged sack of 150 workers.
The unions – the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria and the National Union of Air Transport Employees – accused the airline of anti-labour practices.
The members of both unions, chanting various solidarity songs, barred workers and clients of the airline from entering its premises for several hours.
The protesters carried placards with inscriptions such as “Casualisation/Outsourcing is Evil, Workers Say No”, “No Alternative to Condition of Service, No to Impunity in Caverton” and “Workers’ Rights Must be Protected”.
However, there was a tight security presence as policemen from the Rapid Response Squad and other aviation security personnel were on ground to forestall any breakdown of law and order.
Addressing the protesters, the General Secretary, NUATE, Olayinka Abioye, said the unions decided to shut down the airline’s operations in Lagos, Warri and Port Harcourt to protect the rights of workers.
Abioye flayed the decision of Caverton’s management to declare 150 workers redundant in view of the current economic situation in the country.
He said that the affected workers were paid only a month salary in lieu of notice despite some of them having spent up to 13 years in the airline’s service.
He further alleged that some of the workers were outsourced to another company, Bluebay, and their salaries were slashed without any negotiation with labour.
He said, “We are shocked that management chose this ignoble path of ambushing the union by declaring a whopping 150 members of staff redundant, while we were still discussing and negotiating a new salary structure and condition of service.
“We believe that this indecorous position is ultra vires, null and void and of no effect.
“Our principle of industrial relations is not to use “carrot and stick” tactics in negotiation and go ahead and shoot the union at the back.
“We want to inform the management of Caverton Helicopters that unless they reverse themselves by concluding the ongoing negotiation that was aborted, we may not guarantee industrial peace in their locations across Africa.”
Abioye emphasised that the dream of the airline’s founder, Chief Remi Makanjuola, was to empower Nigerians, provide work for them and develop the country as a whole.
He alleged that since the company was handed over to Makanjuola’s son, it had been grossly mismanaged and might be run aground if care was not taken.
Abioye called on the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to carry out a financial audit on Caverton Helicopters to know their current financial status.
The General Secretary, ATSSSAN, Frances Akinjole, urged aviation companies and airlines to stop treating Nigerian workers as slaves.
Akinjole said Caverton failed to follow the laid down procedure for declaring workers redundant before embarking on the exercise, stressing that the move would be resisted by labour.
However, Caverton had in a letter addressed to the NUATE claimed that the sacking of the workers was based on the review of its operational exigency and economic climate in the country.
The letter dated Oct.28 and signed by the airline’s Industrial Relation Manager, Segun Alebiosu, said the move was in accordance with Section 20 of the Nigeria Labour Act.
It said the affected workers were offered accrued salary up to the effective date, one month salary in lieu of notice and contributory pension up to the last full month.
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