The National President, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), Ahmadu Ilitrus, has told the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige that non implementation of the 2019 minimum wage bill was responsible for the unions call for strike.
Illustrus who spoke on behalf of other aviation unions during a meeting hosted by Ngige to stop the impending strike which could ground air travel nationwide, he called for urgent measures to address their demands.
Recall that aviation workers under the aegis of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP) and other unions had threatened to withdraw their services on Tuesday (today) over poor welfare and unimplemented agreements with the government.
The meeting, which commenced at 6pm, was ongoing as of the time of filing this report. The meeting also had in attendance, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, and other relevant top government officials.
However, the labour leaders lamented that since 2019 when the Minimum Wage Bill was signed, no worker from the aviation ministry had been paid.
He said many of the aviation workers had left service without benefitting from it, urging the government to ensure that those who deserved the payment were paid.
Respomding to the aviation union leaders, Ngige thanked them for the matured way they went about their matter, saying they acted in the spirit of labour reconciliation.
He noted that the aviation workers gave the necessary warning to his ministry, but they resolved that their parent ministry should first engage with them.
Ngige said, “I am happy that the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Aviation reported that they did so with you, but there are two major areas that they couldn’t reach agreement with you and therefore, you had to escalate the matter by issuing an ultimatum to close the entire air space.
“I can see that all of you are here, both the air traffic controllers and engineers. We thought there might be some openings in the air space, but I can see that all of you are united.
“I can assure you that we are going to reach agreements here and some of the agreements will be reached with the speed of a flash and we will get back to them.”
Ngige, however, drew attention to a reconciliation agreement earlier done by NUATE with officials of his ministry, in which they agreed on March 31 as the timeline for the consummation, wondering why such an agreement existed.
He added, “But that is not the issue now. I know about your complaints and that is why I called all the stakeholders including the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission and the Federal Ministry of Aviation. I had discussed most of the issues with your employers, the Minister and the Permanent Secretary and we decided on a line of action. It is that this government, the President in particular, does not believe that we can disengage people.
“The President does not believe a worker is not due his remunerations in terms of salaries and allowances. That is why nobody can complain that we are owing salaries. Some allowances that have not been fine-tuned, once fine-tuned, the government will pay because the President was a wage-earning person all through his military career. That is why he does not deal with anything pertaining to anybody being owed for work done.
“As long as I am the Minister of Labour, no government agency will owe anybody salaries and even confirmed allowances. If you cannot pay all, the CBA negotiations allow you to do ability to pay at the time in question so that you can stagger payment. But we will agree on things today, put timelines on them and it will be done.”
Also speaking, Sirika said the agitation for the rights and privileges of workers was lawful and acceptable, adding that the government takes the issue of labour very seriously.