Airlines lose over N400 million, relocate operations over closure of MMA2.
· Dana Air to sack workers, unions, Bi-Courtney conflict deepens
Local airlines yesterday recorded losses in excess of N400 million over the closure of Murtala Muhammed Airport II (MMA2) and disruption of flight activities on Wednesday.
The picketing by joint unions of aviation workers, which enters day-three this morning, has heightened fears that over a billion naira would have been lost by the end of today, further putting the airlines in dire straits.
Apparently hard hit by the losses, Dana Air has threatened to downsize workers should the losses continue.
Meanwhile, concerned stakeholders and workers in the terminal yesterday staged a counter protest condemning alleged plans by the unions to invade and destroy the MMA2 facilities.
Yesterday all five airlines – Aero Contractors, Dana Air, Azman, Med-View and Overland – have temporarily moved operations to the near-by General Aviation Terminal (GAT). The move was, however, faced with new challenge of congestion and delays in facilitation of passengers at the GAT.
Outside at the MMA2 section, members of the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) continued to barricade the gates, though had been joined by heavy duty trucks, bouncers and attack dogs.
The joint unions on Wednesday shut the busy terminal in protest against alleged anti-labour activities and sack of 20 members by management of the facility. Bi-Courtney Aviation Services Limited (BASL) that owns and operates MMA2 said most of the affected workers have reached retirement age while others were dismissed for negligence of duty.
Dana Air in a statement signed by its Corporate Communication Manager of Dana Air, Kingsley Ezenwa, said while they currently operate from GAT, “our worse fear is processing passengers with over eight airlines having to operate at the same time.”
Dana, however, appealed to the parties to reconsider the affected passengers and “save the industry from collapse”.
According to the airline, “Without the passengers, there won’t be any airline, regulator or industry and we believe they shouldn’t suffer for what they did not contribute to.
“For now, we have lost over N100 million to the ongoing action and losing such money in an industry where airlines are still grappling with a myriad of challenges is unacceptable and disappointing to say the least.
“We do not know how the situation will be in the coming days and we might have no other option than to downsize workforce, if the action stretches for too long. While we respect the rights of both parties to engage each other based on extant laws, we call on all concerned to intervene and save the industry from further crises,” the statement read in part.
Secretary General of NUATE, Olayinka Abioye, yesterday reaffirmed that the closure would continue until BASL deemed it fit to recall the 20 sacked workers.
Abioye said contrary to the claim that the unions defied a court’s restraining order, “none of our unions have been served any court papers up till now.”
“BASL, who badly needed external intervention, was the one who brought dogs, bouncers and low loader trailers to block its own terminal, technically assisting the unions picket the terminal further.
“The Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of Police (Lagos Airport Command) has called for a meeting with all parties towards resolving the matter. However, the only solution is the recall of the sacked staff and unionisation of willing workers. There shall be no retreat or surrender,” Abioye said.
But, the concessionaires, their workers and other business owners at the terminal, who trooped out in their hundreds to protest the unions’ plan, accused the unions of deliberately planning to sabotage the terminal, if their demands were not meant.
They carried placards with various inscriptions, such as “Over 2,000 staff, families suffering”, “FG, save our souls”, NUATE/ATSSAN, respect court orders”, “NUATE/ATSSAN, let Bi-Courtney be” and “BASL is a responsible employer of labour”, among others.
Spokesman of BASL, Steve Omolale, said they had it on good authority that unions in the aviation sector were making “clandestine moves to invade our terminal in the night and destroy the facilities therein.”
“We will never allow this to happen as we consider it as the greatest act of criminality. We want to assure the unions that as a law-abiding corporate citizen, we will do everything possible within the ambit of the law to protect our terminal.
“With this new revelation, we believe that their alleged grievances go beyond the protestation of the disengagement of the 24 workers who they claimed were their members. We view this as an act of economic sabotage and a sustained campaign to truncate our concession.
‘BASL therefore appealed to the Nigeria Police Force to enforce the various court orders granted it, restraining the unions from further disrupting the operations of MMA2.’