By Yunus Yusuf
The National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), has issued a two-week ultimatum to airlines, who have sacked or plan to sack their pilots and engineers under the guise of COVID-19, to reverse the decision.
Its President, Mr Abednego Galadinma, at a news conference on Wednesday in Lagos, said pilots and aircraft maintenance engineers had resolved to withdraw their services to all airlines, if colleagues were sacked.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that there had been a spate of terminations of contract of pilots and engineers across various airlines, all linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.
About 170 pilots have been sacked from Bristow Helicopters and Air Peace airlines, so far.
Galadinma criticised Bristow helicopters for sacking 100 pilots and engineers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that the company was not saying the truth, since it operated throughout the lockdown period, servicing the oil and gas sector as essential service provider.
He urged the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority ( NCAA) to, as a matter of urgency, prevail on the airlines to stop the unilateral dismissal of pilots and engineers.
“We demand that Bristow and Air Peace should immediately recall all sacked pilots and aircraft engineers until all labour issues are resolved or be grounded by NCAA because of attendant safety concerns created by their action.
“As a result of the known consequences of these illegal actions and our commitment to patriotic fervour, we shall be forced to withdraw our guarantee of industrial peace within the industry if this call is not heeded within two weeks.
”Our union will be left with no other option but to withdraw the services of pilots and aircraft maintenance engineers across all the airlines,” he said.
Responding to questions, the NAAPE president rejected the Bristow statement which indicated that the sack of 100 pilots and engineers would affect both Nigerians and expatriates, stating that it was just a ploy to get rid of Nigerians.
Galadinma said: “To say the 100 pilots and engineers are not only our members is unsubstantiated and we do not know this because the management did not engage us.
“Operators, especially Bristow Helicopters, have rendered our members redundant despite assurances by government of support for their businesses in return for operators not laying off staff.
“These operators are already running on lean manpower with disproportionate number being expatriates, yet, without regards to our expatriates and local content laws and executive order 5, they have gone ahead to lay off staff under the guise of COVID-19 pandemic.
“They cannot be using COVID-19 as an excuse because the cessation of flight operations did not affect essential services like oil and gas supply. Besides, Bristow and Caverton were operating during the lockdown.
“In fact, you would recall that our members were held by the Rivers State Government during the lockdown, so how can they be using COVID-19 as an excuse?
“It is on record that Bristow Helicopters operated throughout the lockdown, supporting oil and gas operations with government’s approval and guarantees service contracts in the same national interest, but they are now using COVID-19 to force redundancy on our members,” he fumed.(NAN)