Operations of Kenya Airways in Lagos was on Thursday morning disrupted by the members of aviation industry unions over alleged unilateral sacking of 22 Nigerian workers by the management of the airline.
This is as the unions alleged that the airline smuggled three “deadheaded crew” into the parked aircraft at the tarmac without proper profiling as required by the law.
The picketing left about 300 passengers stranded.
Members of National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) had stormed the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos as early as 5 a.m, taking over the check in and profiling counters of the airline, thus, effectively stopping the staff from attending to air travelers.
The unions had alleged that the management of the East African carrier sacked the 22 out of 26 Nigerians on its payroll two weeks ago without following the Nigerian Labour Act, which stipulated that employers must involve the unions before they could sack their employees.
Speaking on behalf of the other unions, Comrade Olayinka Abioye, the General Secretary of NUATE, said that the unions took to picketing as a last resort, stressing that all efforts made in the past to resolve issues concerning the sacked workers previously declared by the airline as redundant failed.
According to him, as the picketing exercise was going on, the airline with the connivance of some personnel in the industry, “smuggled” the three personnel into the tarmac through the arrival hall without profiling them.
He said: “We have been saying it that our airports are too porous. Three
people who are usually referred to as deadheaded crew were smuggled into the aircraft through the arrival hall and from there they were move
to departure lounge into the aircraft without proper screening.
“It is that bad because the company that was to profile the passengers, we told them that once we took over their counters in the morning, they won’t be allowed to fly. I don’t know where the airline did the profiling of the deadheaded crew for them to gain entrance into the aircraft.”
Abioye, however, said that the unions had suspended the picketing of the airline following the intervention of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), which said it was ready to mediate on the crisis.
According to him, Capt. Muhtar Usman the Director-General of NCAA, met with the unions through officials of the Consumer Protection Directorate (CPD) and Human Resources.
He explained that a meeting between the two warring organisations has been fixed for next Tuesday at the NCAA’s headquarters at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos.
“We were in the exercise when NCAA sent its officials to us from the CPD and later from the Human Resource Department. The DG was before now informed of our plans and the situation on ground, but advised us to follow the law in whatever we do.
“So, NCAA brought a letter to us this afternoon, seeking for mediation on the picketing. We are meeting next Tuesday at the agency’s office in Lagos,” he said.
However, no official of the airline could be contacted for their own side of the as the carrier didn’t not have any known official in the country.
But, there are indications that some of the stranded passengers may be airlifted out of the country at night, but as at the time of filing this report, the passengers were yet to be airlifted out.