The Federal Government has started moves to avert the impending nationwide strike by aviation workers.
Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, said this at a meeting with the officials of the Ministry of Aviation and the aviation workers unions on Monday in Abuja.
It would be recalled that the aviation workers, under the aegis of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), and the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP), threatened to withdraw their services by Feb. 8, over alleged poor welfare and unimplemented agreements with the government.
Ngige, who commended the aviation workers for the matured way they went about their matter, said that they acted in the spirit of labour conciliation.
He noted that the aviation workers gave the necessary warning to his ministry, but they resolved that their parent ministry should first engage with them.
”I am happy that the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Aviation reported that they met with you, but there are two major areas that they could not reach agreement with you.
”Therefore, you had to escalate the matter by issuing an ultimatum to close the entire air space. I can see that all of you are here, both the traffic controllers and engineers.
”We thought there may be some openings in the air space, but I can see that all of you are united.
”I can assure you that we are going to reach agreements here and some of the agreements will be reached with the speed of a flash and we will get back to them,” he said.
Ngige, however, noted that a conciliation agreement was entered into between NUATE with officials of his ministry, in which they agreed on March 31 as the timeline for the consummation, wondering why such an agreement exists and it is now as if they are on a steeplechase.
”But that is not the issue now. I know about your complaints and that is why I called all the stakeholders, including the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC) and the Federal Ministry of Aviation.
”I had discussed most of the issues with your employers, the Minister and the Permanent Secretary and we decided on a line of action. It is that this government, the President in particular, does not believe that we can disengage people.
”The President does not believe a worker is not due his remunerations in terms of salaries and allowances. That is why nobody can complain that we are owing salaries.
”Some allowances that have not been fine-tuned, once fine-tuned, the government will pay because the President was a wage earning person all through his military career.
”That is why he does not deal with anything pertaining to anybody being owed for work done,” he said.
He added that as long as he is the Minister of Labour, no government agency will owe anybody salaries and confirmed allowances.
”If you cannot pay all, the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations allow you to do ability to pay at the time in question so that you can stagger payment. But, we will agree on things today, put timelines on them and it will be done,” Ngige said.
Also speaking, Mr Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, said that the agitation for the rights and privileges of workers is lawful and acceptable, especially under the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The minister, however, described the agitation as something in-house between the ministry and its parastatals.
He said that such could be dealt with, hoping that the leadership of the unions would go back to their members with something that they would be happy about.
Also, speaking on behalf of the aviation unions, Mr Ahmadu Ilitrus, the National President, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSAN), called for urgent measures to address their demands.
He noted that since 2019 when the Minimum Wage Bill was signed, no worker from the Aviation Ministry has benefitted from it.
He said many of the aviation workers left service without benefitting from it, urging the Government to ensure that those who deserved the payment are paid.
He also called for the approval and release of the reviewed conditions of service for aviation workers.
He appealed to the government to address the issue of suppression of unionisation in the aviation industry.
The meeting, which commenced by 6pm was ongoing as at the time of filing this report.