The National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), on Wednesday, threatened to shut down the aviation sector following the sack of dozens of its members.
It issued a two-week ultimatum to airlines, who have sacked or plan to sack their pilots and engineers, to rescind the decision, warning that they could no longer guarantee safety.
Daily Trust reports that Air Peace, Nigeria’s biggest carrier, and Bristow Helicopters – operating in the oil and gas sector – had sacked over 100 pilots and engineers citing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pilots and engineers in the two organisations had earlier rejected pay cut, prompting the managements to take a drastic decision to sack them.
Addressing a press conference in Lagos, President of NAAPE, Comrade Abednego Galadima, declared that the body had resolved to withdraw services of pilots and aircraft maintenance engineers across all airlines.
He called on the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to, as a matter of urgency, prevail on these airlines to stop what he called “the unilateral sacking of pilots and engineers.”
The association demanded that Bristow and Air Peace should immediately recall all sacked pilots and aircraft engineers until all labour issues were resolved.
Failure to do that, it asked the NCAA to ground the airline because of attendant safety concerns created by their action. Galadima said: “As a result of the known consequences of these illegal actions…, 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.”
It’s all about pilots, engineers
He dismissed the insinuation that the sacked pilots and engineers were not only Nigerians.
“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 gave go ahead to lay off staff under the guise of COVID-19 pandemic.
“And they cannot be using COVID-19 as an excuse because the cessation of flight operations did not affect essential services like the oil and gas and Bristow and Caverton were operating during the lockdown.
“In fact, you’d 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,” he said.