Labour to picket airlines over non-unionisation stance

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By Itohan Abara-Laserian

The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) on Monday said it would soon picket offices of airlines across the country that had disallowed their staff from joining trade unions.

Mr Ben Nnabue, the National President of NUATE made the disclosure during the National Campaign for the Unionisation of Private Domestic Airlines in Nigeria on Monday in Lagos.

Nnabue told the workers that the union had received the backing of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) based in London on unionisation.

According to him, it is against labour law for some airlines to make employment conditioned upon not joining a trade union,

He said that those who threatened workers with sack if they joined unions were acting contrary to Nigerian laws.

Nnabue recalled that participants at the last global labour unions conference held in Singapore observed that a lot of organisations were not unionised.

He said that this was what informed the mandate to ensure that slave labour was eliminated on the African continent.

“In Nigeria, we have come to terms with the reality that majority of our domestic airlines do not want their workers to join unions.

“While some have allowed their staff to unionise, other airlines, at the point of entrance, warn their staff against joining any trade union of their choice.

“We have been on this for the past five years. We have reported to the ministers of labour and that of aviation.

“All of them have been promising us that something will be done, but you can’t be following up a project for five years; it means that they don’t want to do anything,” he said.

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The union leader said that the international body in London was in support of their fight for unionisation.

“They also sent their regional Secretary, Comrade Itsafianu to come and monitor the process and also Comrade Dayo was sent from London to come see what we are doing about it.

“That shows how serious the global body views the decisions of our airlines not to allow their workers to join the trade unions.”

He warned that this was the last olive branch to be extended to them, saying that the next time, they would have to use what the laws allow them to use.

“We will picket them, but we have to exhaust all the channels of dialogue first, then we are at liberty to use the last resort, which is to picket those organisations,” he said.

The NUATE General Secretary, Mr Ocheme Aba, affirmed that it would be in the interest of airlines and organisations in the aviation sector to allow their workers to join the labour unions.

He said that no airline that had allowed its staff to join trade unions ever went under,  apart from Nigeria Airways that was deliberately run down.

All the airlines that have gone under in the country under were not unionised.

“An airline worker that is unionised, that has the backing of the union does not cut corners, they do not take orders from the owners to cut corners.

“They work according to the rules because if you give them a query, they will answer the query and if the company will carry out any action there is usually fair hearing, so they are protected.

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“Those airlines that folded up are the ones that did not have any organised structure, no organised maintenance structure, no workforce structure, no director of administration, everything is one person in one office.

“That is why many of these people do not want unions, because they want to do things as they like.

“We must also understand that a worker who does not have a negotiated terms of employment is just a paid slave,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that members of the union carried placards bearing inscription such as; ‘To belong to a trade union is a right, no negotiation’’; “The worker needs trade union protection”, among others.(NAN) (www.nannews.ng)

Edited by Oluwole Sogunle

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