The management of Arik Air has called on the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, to intervene on the planned industrial action by the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) slated for today.
The two unions had vowed to call Arik Air workers out on a strike over alleged non-payment of staff salaries in the airline since April after placing 90% of the workforce on compulsory leave.
In a letter to the minister by the Chief Executive Officer of Arik, Capt. Roy Ilegbodu, entitled, “Re-Unions in Arik Air threaten to down tools September 14”, dated September 11, Ilegbodu stated that the threat of strike action is coming without an exhaustive use of the various channels of engagement, discussion, consensus and understanding which he described as faulty and unlikely to yield the best outcomes for staff, the company and its faithful passengers.
He said the issues in dispute cannot pass the test of fairness and only affect, in the short term, less than 20 staff out of a workforce of over 1,600.
He explained that prior to Arik Air Ltd. going into receivership, the employment letters basically detailed the approved emoluments of staff, adding that since the commencement of the receivership, this has been expanded by the introduction of policies to create best practice work environment to deliver top notch services.
He noted that management had been in discussion with various staff groups and unions to have these policies codified into Staff Conditions of Service and have a share of mind on most issues.
According to the letter sighted by New Telegraph, the only outstanding area of difference, he reiterated, was the request by the unions for a terminal benefit scheme over and above the requirements of the Pension Act.
“They request for an independent retirement benefit scheme that will be wholly funded by the airline where retiring, resigning and terminated staff will receive a lump sum payment upon exit that will, in some cases, double the joint contribution of management and staff under the Pension Act of 2004 as amended.
“While it is the right of staff to share in the prosperity of a company, the request for an additional retirement scheme from a loss making company, in receivership and whose operations are supported by creditors over and above legal requirements is simply onerous.
“Given the cost driven challenges in the aviation sector that have seen majority of airlines fold up in the past years, the request by the unions will set an unsustainable standard for other airlines that are struggling to survive in these difficult times.
Notwithstanding, management restates its commitment to appropriate staff welfare and will do its best to keep workers motivated within the limit of available resources,” Ilegbodu wrote.