By Yunus Yusuf
Arik Air has been grounded by aviation unions over alleged failure to pay salaries since April.
The unions are also protesting the placement of 90 per cent of the workforce on compulsory leave and other anti-labour practices.
The protesting unions were the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN).
All Arik Air operations were shut down as a result of the protest. And this left booked passengers fuming.
Mr Innocent Atasie, Chairman, ATSSSAN, Arik Air Branch told NAN that the workers resolved to shut down Arik operations nationwide when all efforts made to resolve the problem failed.
Atasie said that the unions were miffed that there had been no payment of staff salaries since April after placing 90 per cent of the workforce on compulsory leave.
The unions said the strike would continue indefinitely until their demands were met by the management of Arik Air.
Their demands included- payment of outstanding salaries arrears, signing of Conditions of Service, remittance of Pension, Tax, and statutory deductions to the appropriate authorities and to resolve other anti-labour issues.
Others were payment of salary arrears of seven months, with a commitment to pay salaries as at when due, henceforth.
Atasie said that the unions also wanted the immediate review of all employee remunerations which had remained stagnant since the inception of Arik Air, over ten years ago.
He said that the unions decided to shut down all operations nationwide when all efforts by the unions were aborted.
On Sept. 13, the management of Arik Air asked for the intervention of the Minister of Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika, over the planned industrial action by unions scheduled to commence on Sept 14.
The Chief Executive Officer of Arik, Capt. Roy Ilegbodu, made the appeal in a letter to the minister entitled, “Re-Unions in Arik Air threaten to down tools.
At the local terminals in Lagos, Arik Air passengers expressed disappointment over the shutdown workout any prior information to them.
Mr Julius Anifowoshe, told NAN that ” l was shocked when l came to the airport at about 6.30 a.m., to board and found out that the airline workers are on strike without due notification.
”I was forced to buy another ticket from another airline to meet up with my appointment in Abuja.
”Government should sanction Arik Air for not reaching out through text messages or e-mail to customers on the planned strike.
”I am going to seek refund of my money whenever I return to Lagos. Arik Air took customers for granted,” he said.
Another passenger, Mrs Beatrice Ikechukwu expressed disappointment over sudden shut down of the operations without due notice to passengers.
Ikechukwu said: ” l have to source for money to buy another ticket for what l did not planned for.
“Arik Air operational system is porous, nobody came to address passengers on what was happening. This is really pathetic and disheartening,” she said.
However, Mr Adebanji Ola, the Communications Manager of Arik Air said that the management has scheduled a meeting with the unions for Sept. 15 to resolve all matters.
The airline was taken over by AMCON in February 2017 following huge indebtedness to banks. According to AMCON, Arik was owing as much as N300billion.