Two labour unions in the aviation sector have expressed dissatisfaction over their non-involvement in the ongoing plan by the Federal Government to concession the Lagos and Abuja airports.
The Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) voiced their anger at a peaceful protest in Lagos on Tuesday.
The union members, drawn from the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) gathered at Freedom Square at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja to make their demands.
The workers, who started their protest at about 7.30 a.m. carried placards with various inscriptions, including “FAAN workers say no to Lagos and Abuja airports concession.”
“Selling our international airports is an invitation to terrorism”.
The National President of ATSSSAN, Mr Ahmadu Ilitrus, who spoke on behalf of both unions, said the protest was necessitated by the recent statement by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo that the Federal Government had approved the concession of the airports.
Ilitrus said the unions had every reason to express fears, based on what Nigerians had witnessed in the past concession exercises.
“We have learnt from the experiences of other sectors such as the maritime, when the ports were undergoing concession. We have also learnt from our comrades in the power and telecommunications sectors and so on.
“I have gone through the document of the proposed airports concession which includes the transaction advisers, the terms of reference and so on. But sincerely, I have not seen anywhere in the document where labour issues have been proposed or being addressed.”
According to him, this is a clear indication that the interest of labour is not being fully taken into consideration.
He noted that what was of utmost importance was the participation of the unions, adding that the bodies would continue to engage government in the struggle.
“We recall that some time ago, the Minister of Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika, had announced that the federal executive council had approved the concession of four airports in the country. During that period, we started the engagement with management and the minister set up a steering committee to come up and advice government on the way forward.
“The committee went on with its assignment without recourse to labour. After then, we had several meetings with the minister and we expressed our dissatisfaction with the lack of transparency to the whole process.
“The minister thereafter, admitted to accept two persons as our representatives into the committee. However, anytime our representatives asked questions concerning labour issues, they would not give them a satisfactory response, hence we were worried.
“We then threatened withdrawal from the committee and that was the last time we heard about the whole issue of airport concession.”
Ilitrus who noted that despite the minister promising to always carry them along, the Federal Government had failed to live up to its promises.
According to the ATSSSAN president, the minister promised the unions that by the time they unveiled transaction for concession, there would be further engagements, adding that the unions had informed the minister about their fears of job losses in the sector after the concession.
“If FAAN is providing services and you concession the airport and give it to a third party, it is the investor’s decision to either lay off everybody and recruit his own staff or to retain few of the FAAN workers.”
“The minister had told us in one of our meetings in the past that “it is our duty to propagate the interests of our members. He asked us to tell our members in the steering committee that they should always bring up labour issues for it to be addressed.
“Therefore, at this stage, we should have had a documented presentation from the unions to government that this is our position with regards to the intention of government to concession the airport. There was a small technical committee that was set up to articulate the position of labour in which the national body would review and come up with a concrete presentation.
“Then we will summit to the president of Nigeria, National Assembly, ministry of labour, ministry of aviation, head of service and all the relevant authorities that have something to do with this issue.”