Union dares NEMA, says airspace will be shut down

LAGOS – Workers of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) under aviation unions on Sunday insisted that there was no going back on their planned protest slated for Monday, May 20.

The unions said that the planned shutting down of the nation’s airspace was to press home their demand for the implementation of the approved salary scale endorsed by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission.

The union’s position is contained in a joint press statement signed by the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineer (NAAPE).

Murtala Mohammed Airport, airspaceIt was signed by Messrs Olayinka Abioye, Abdulkareem Motajo and Aba Ocheme on behalf of the three unions and released to aviation correspondents at the end of an emergency meeting of the workers on Sunday in Lagos.

They urged the public to discountenance the earlier statement from Mr Supo Atobatele, the General Manager, Public Affairs of NAMA, whom they said was speaking for himself.

According to the unions, the meeting convened by the management of NAMA last Friday did not address the issue on ground to the satisfaction of the union’s agitations.

Atobatele had on Friday last week issued a statement saying the planned industrial action slated for Monday had been put on hold following a successful meeting between the union and management.

The statement quoted Atobatele as saying that the Friday meeting was expected to continue on Monday to further deliberate on issues at stake after the parties agreed that dialogue was the best way of resolving industrial crisis.

The unions said that Atobatele did not have the right to cancel an ultimatum issued by the unions to the effect that the planned industrial action in NAMA had been shelved arising from the so called successful meeting held by the parties.

Part of the statement from the unions after Sunday’s emergency meeting reads “for the avoidance of doubt, we wish to state categorically that the ultimatum issued against NAMA shall expire on May 19, 2013 and appropriate actions shall commence thereafter.

“In view of the reactionary misleading press statement of NAMA management through Supo Atobatele, who in the first instance is not the author of the ultimatum, we wish to reassure our members that no retreat, no surrender, and until all grievances are sorted out, there is no going back on our cause of action.”

The unions said all workers had been put on standby for the implementation of the action.

They added that they learnt that there would be a high level delegation on Monday at the Federal Ministry of Aviation, Abuja over the issue.

However, the management of NAMA had on Sunday reacted to the unions’ strike threat, saying there would be flight operations and that the nation’s airspace would remain open to traffic on Monday.

Mr Supo Atobatele, the NAMA General Manager, Public Affairs, said this in a statement he issued to counter the one by the aviation unions.

Atobatele assured all that the airspace would remain open “in spite of the unwarranted threat from some trade union leaders who have vowed in their cocoons to endanger safety and security within the nation’s airspace.”

The NAMA boss who quoted Mr Nnamdi Udoh, the agency’s Managing Diretor as giving the assurance, also assured foreign airlines and urged them to continue to file in their normal flight plans without exercising any fear.

Udoh was also quoted in the statement as wondering why the workers’ representatives had agreed at the Friday meeting to continue deliberations on Monday should change their minds only to want to opt for strike.

Shortly after receiving approval from the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, the agency embarked on the process of implementation by setting up an advisory committee, the statement said.

The committee included the management staff, accounts staff and representatives from the trade unions.

Udoh was quoted as saying that NAMA management commenced full payment of the new consolidated salary structure as approved and promised to pay 13 months arrears thereafter based on the reports of the committee.

“It may interest the public that an average top official of the agency earns additional N100,000 to his or her salary following the implementation of the new salary structure and the condition of service which makes it far above the approved structure from the wages commission,” Udoh said.

He noted that NAMA’s management received a letter of commendation from the unions to that effect, even though they asked the management to look into some grey areas of the approved salary structure.

He wondered what might have informed the agitation for further increase outside the approved salary by the wages commission.

“This again, the management in its magnanimity set up another advisory committee to do a re-work and further enhancement,’’ Udoh said. (NAN)

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