Hundreds of striking workers of Aero Contractors erupted in jubilation on Wednesday after learning that the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, had grounded Nigeria’s second largest airline until the crisis between management and staff is resolved.
Aero Contractors had grounded itself on Friday, after management and striking workers failed to reach an agreement, and had planned to resume flight operations today, but was grounded by NCAA.
NCAA Acting Director General, Mr. Nkemakolam Joyce Daniel, confirmed the grounding of Aero Contractors in an interview with our correspondent.
He said Aero Contractors had previously written NCAA to inform that it had grounded its operations but later called to inform that it wanted to start flying again. But the request was rejected because the crisis is still on.
“As it is now, they remain officially grounded by the NCAA,” the NCAA boss said.
“We told them that based on the issues that led to them grounding their operations they cannot start flying.”
“NCAA told them they cannot start flying while their workers are still protesting. I believe it is a fantastic decision in the interest of safety,” said Comrade Benjamin Okewu, President Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, ATSSSAN.
Aero began dismissing hundreds of staff at the weekend and some of them still had their ODCs (On-Duty-Card) which give them access to the air site of the airport.
“This is not good for safety. Some angry workers could be suicidal and do anything. It still not good to start flying in such conditions,” said Ebosele Rhizoji Smith, a dismissed driver at Aero Contractors.
“If they want me to go, they should just pay me off,” he said.
Workers stormed the headquarters of Aero Contractors on Wednesday morning after learning that the airline was planning to resume flights today.
“There was information that they wanted to resume today and we came to see how that would happen,” said a worker who did not want his name mentioned.
The crisis has now entered its seventh day and all Aero aircraft remain grounded while passengers who had booked flights online were still stranded and unable to get refunds.
“We will not leave until all the issues are settled. NCAA’s decision is a great decision. It is a very just decision in the interest of safety. Aero should be on ground until all the matters are resolved,” said Comrade Olayinka Abioye, ATSSSAN Acting Secretary General.
Workers claimed that their colleague, Okonkwo Ndubusi, has passed on as a result of the crisis. His wife who was part of the protest said that he died after facing the disciplinary session not long ago.