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Striking workers begin airport shutdown next week

Striking aviation workers, who disrupted operations in the country’s airports on Tuesday, have threatened to totally shut down the airspace next Wednesday if the government fails to grant their requests.

The workers, who had embarked on a two-day warning strike since Monday, were chanting solidarity songs at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, in the presence of heavy security personnel.

One of the unionists, Comrade Abdulrarak Saidu, expressed disappointment that nothing has been done to ensure that the conditions of service were implemented in the last eight years.

He also criticised the aviation minister for wanting to pull down offices of agencies and parastatals in Lagos State.

According to him, the minister wants to turn his policy into law and lord it over the industry.

He said, “For eight years, conditions of service were not implemented. Sirika usurps the functions of the governing boards. There is no check and balance. They wanted to coerce us to come to Abuja, but we did not go for the meeting. No conclusions, and no genuine meeting with the government.

“He wants to destroy buildings in the sector for a roadmap that was not approved for Lagos. Even the one approved in Abuja for the aerotropolis nothing has happened there and he wants to turn his policy into law.

“When you are going in the next month, you want to pull down headquarters and leave nothing. After seven days, we go to a total shutdown. We will try to cut Nigeria away from other countries.”

Exclusively speaking with The PUNCH in Abuja, the Secretary-General of NUATE, Ocheme Aba, disclosed that the union had given the government until Friday to respond to their demands, after which they would meet and agree on the next line of action. He noted that the union was prepared to go all the way to ensure that their demands were met, as they had exhausted all other options.

“As we stated in our notice of strike, if our demands are not met, then an indefinite strike will be inevitable.

“We tend to give the government till Friday, and then by next week, if we do not hear anything, we will meet and agree on the next line of action,” he disclosed.

The First Vice President of NUATE, who is also the union’s Women’s Leader, Lucy Ukpen, told our correspondent that the unions were considering a full shutdown of schools across the country as they continue to demand better working conditions.

According to her, the unions are assessing the situation and will take the necessary steps if the government fails to respond to their demands.

Ukpen said, “We are planning for a full shutdown. We are accessing the whole thing. The leadership will look at it carefully and see the response from the government and if need be that we would go for a full strike, we will activate it.

Speaking on the expected date for the indefinite strike, she said, “We cannot say because it is not only one union that makes up the association. Since the two days warning strike has ended, we would converge and have a meeting and look at the response from the government. That is when we would determine exactly the next line of action.”

Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the Airline Operators of Nigeria, Obiora Okonkwo, noted that the strikes by aviation workers have had an adverse impact on airline operations and their customers.

The strike, which began Monday, had caused significant disruption to air travel, as airlines were forced to cancel and reschedule flights.

“We are flying,” Okonkwo said, “except that it is stressful on the passengers and disruptive on the schedule. We hope they will come to a resolution for things to return to normal.”

As a result of the ongoing industrial action by Aviation unions in Lagos, Nigeria, offices of agencies of the Ministry of Aviation, including the Nigeria Airspace Management Agency, Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, and the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, have been locked down.

Last week, aviation workers issued a two-day warning strike notice signed by the secretaries general of five unions.

The unions threatened to withdraw their services over the refusal of the Federal Government to release the reviewed condition of service negotiated over seven years ago.


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