AVIATION workers in the country today protested what they considered “obnoxious” legislation seeking to prevent trade unions in the sector from demonstrations.
The protest, held simultaneously across the country, was organised by some unions in the industry, which included the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Association of Nigerian Association Professionals (ANAP), and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers.
Protesting union officials, who defied the rains this morning in Lagos, said the protest was over “oppressive clauses” in the new bills governing the affairs of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), and four other aviation agencies.
The unions described the said clauses as a “subtle attempt” to restrain their powers and obliterate unionism, even as they threatened to proceed with their industrial action if their request for withdrawal of the bills was not granted before the next 14 days.
The contentious clauses read, ‘All services which facilitate and maintain the smooth, orderly and safe take-off, flight and landing of aircraft, embarkation and disembarkation and evacuation of passengers and cargo respectively in all aerodromes in Nigeria are hereby designated as essential services pursuant to the provisions of Section 11(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered);
‘The minister may, by regulations, prohibit all or such class or classes of workers, officers and other employees or persons, whether corporate or natural, engaged in the provision of services specified in subsection (1) of this section from taking part in a strike or other industrial action.
‘The provisions of the Trade Disputes (Essential Services) Act, Cap. T9, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 shall apply to service in the agency, facilities managed by the agency, and in the implementation of this bill. There shall be no strikes, lock-outs, pickets, blockades, service disruptions, etc. of any kind within all facilities managed by the agency, and where any labour dispute arises, such dispute shall be resolved by the agency.’
The NUATE Secretary-General, Ocheme Aba, noted that the clauses implied the granting of powers to the minister of aviation to regulate trade unions and workers, in contradiction to the Trade Unions Act, 2004, which grants the minister of labour sole regulatory powers over trade union and industrial relations matters in Nigeria.
Aba said, “It is clear that the contentious clauses smuggled into the aviation agencies’ bills have no moral or legal basis for being there. The lame reference to Section 11(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Public Order and Public Security) is poignantly pretentious.
“It is an attempt to enable the minister of aviation to usurp the powers of the minister of labour, which is diabolically disingenuous. And its bold assault on the rights of trade unions and hapless workers renders the intended law a demonstration of an ultimate disservice by public officers. Therefore, the intended laws must be prevented from breathing any air of acceptance.”
Similarly, the General Secretary of ATSSSAN, Frances Akinjole, said the legislation would stifle workers’ right in the industry.
Akinjole said, “It would not only mean that there must not be strike, but that there must not be any activity that would disturb operations in any facility managed by the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria. In fact, you cannot even hold congress, because if you want to hold congress, you will have to call out your members for a meeting.
“They even defined what strike meant, that even if you do your job, as long as you refuse to do it or sit down or do it slowly, you have committed an offence.”
The National Assembly had in February passed the Civil Aviation Bill 2022, which sought to repeal the Civil Aviation Act 2006.
Just recently, President Muhammadu Buhari assented to eight bills, which included the Civil Aviation Act 2022.