Why unions should dialogue with airlines over sack

YEAR 2020 will never be forgotten as the worst year for the country’s aviation sector for no other reason but for the disaster brought upon it by the corona-virus pandemic.

It is no longer news how the pandemic forced the federal government of Nigeria, like other nations around the world, to take so many drastic steps to curtail the further spread of the deadly virus and killing of human beings.

Unfortunately, most of the preventive measures taken deeply affected the global aviation community including that of Nigeria for the obvious reason of the natural role the sector played and still plays through air transport.

As the countries continued in their efforts to fight the pandemic, the Nigerian airlines like their counterparts around the world suffered the deepest casualty as their business were suddenly halted with no aircraft allowed to take to the sky for five whole months, a period that is like 50 years in airline business.

In other words, the Nigerian airlines had their over 120 planes grounded at various airports across the country for five months which led to huge losses that could not be quantified and it will only take the grace of God for the stronger ones to remain in business.

The recommencement of flights on July 8, 2020 which ordinarily should have been a thing of joy, has, however, come with mixed feelings of anxiety between air travelers whose source of movement had been put on hold for so long and the airline workers who by now must have realized that the jobs many of them loved to do before the pandemic may have come to an end.

As expected, the airline owners who have lost the largest chunk of their financial muscle must took some steps that would help them survive the post COVID-19 impact and one of such steps is the ongoing restructuring of their businesses as witnessed in the ongoing sack of many of their workers.

Little wonder that in the last two weeks, many airline workers including the hitherto untouchable class of workers who serve as the engine backbone of airline business, the pilots and engineers suffered a high casualty figure.

In the history of airline business in the country and even around the world, this is the first time a large number of pilots and engineers will be sacked in a fell swoop.

With the large number of pilots and engineers sacked, this shows that the airlines have no choice but to take such actions for the obvious reason that prior to the pandemic, this class of workers were jealously protected by the airlines for so many reasons ranging from the huge financial investments spent to train them, to the critical role they play in flying passengers of the airlines around Nigeria and in some cases around the world.

To the airlines, it is a painful decision they have to take to survive and this is not peculiar to Nigeria.

While no one knows where the ongoing sad development is heading to, one can only pray for things to quickly get better with a swift response from the federal government to assist the airlines as this will help to preserve more job losses.

It is at this juncture that the Crucial Moment is urging the aviation unions to tread softly and see reasons why the airlines are restructuring like other private businesses, though it is very sad that it is happening.

Without corona-virus there would have been no justification for this, but this has become a reality thrown at workers around the world by the pandemic.

It is at this juncture that Crucial Moment is appealing to the unions not to be too harsh on the airlines that are already down and standing on one leg.

Rather than embarking on nationwide strike to show their solidarity with the sacked workers as they have threatened, this is the time for them to go into dialogue with the airline owners on how those sacked can get paid or how they can be reinstated as soon as things get better and not a matter of drumming for war.

The obvious fact is that the airline owners are presently fighting for survival and any action they take as terrible as it may look will be justifiable unless the federal government realizes the critical roles the airlines like other private investors play in helping to provide jobs for its citizens and quickly steps in with a special bailout package.



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