Updated: Chaos at Lagos airport, Qatar, RwandAir divert flights, passengers stranded over NAHCo workers’ strike

  • · Air Peace counts over N500 million loss
  • Firm, unions reach agreement, call off strike
  • ·Passengers in frenzy

Scores of international passengers were left stranded at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos as workers of Nigerian Aviation Handling Company Plc (NAHCo Plc) down tools over alleged salary issues.

Delta, Turkish Air, Ethiopian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Qatar, and Air France-KLM are some of the airlines the company handles. It handles check-in, boarding, and ramp services for many international carriers including domestic carriers.

NAHCo had in the heat of the chaos occasioned by the strike embarked by its workers’ accused the staff of violating an order restraining them from embarking on what it termed ‘illegal’ strike action.

The firm, in a statement in Lagos, acknowledged that some of its clients were being put through a difficult situation by the insistence of some staff to embark on strike action despite a subsisting order of the court that restrained them from doing so.

“We regret all the inconveniences,” the Group Executive Director, Dr Olusola Obabori said, adding that the company was already engaging the unions and other stakeholders and are positive the situation would be resolved within hours”.

He said, “We understand the power of negotiation. The company which has arguably the best welfare package among the local players in the aviation industry will do all that is absolutely necessary to make its workforce happy even as it delights its customers. This situation would be resolved speedily as it is detrimental to the staff, the company, and its esteemed clients.”

The aviation unions, the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) had last week given a five–day notice of strike to NAHCO management citing slow progress in negotiation for salary review.

The company which just promoted about 2,000 members of its workforce asked that accelerated negotiation be continued in February to enable the company to stabilize from the financial effect of the recent promotions.

Stranded passengers at Lagos airport

Meanwhile, NAHCo workers later in the day prevailed on the protesting staff to shelve their action  The strike was however suspended after a meeting held between NUATE, t (ATSSSAN) and NAHCo’s management.

To reach an amicable resolution, the management decided to withdraw the suit it filed against the actions of the workers and vacate the earlier obtained court order.

Negotiations on staff welfare are to commence on Wednesday, January 25th January 2023; all negotiations are to be concluded within the week with the resolution that all staff should resume work immediately.

While the situation lasted, many airlines like Qatar Airways and Rwanda which had taken off, diverted to Accra and other neighbouring nations.

It was learnt that Qatar Airlines later went back to Doha with the same passengers after it appeared that the situation would take long to be resolved.

Virgin Atlantic was in a frantic move as of 8.30 am on Monday to prevail on the workers’ union to rescind their action while looking for an amicable resolution to the issue.

Many of Virgin Atlantic’s passengers were students who were returning to schools in the United Kingdom. Many of their parents and guardians in Nigeria and the UK were heard calling their wards in a bid to know the next line of action.

General Sales Agent (GSA) for Virgin Atlantic Airways, Chief  John Adebanjo disclosed that the situation had already put its passengers in a panic mode as the airline was optimistic that the situation would be resolved and passengers allowed to board for their 10 am flight.

The passengers had arrived at the international wing of the Lagos airport for their flights. They were oblivious to what awaited them. Many were seen yelling at some NAHco workers for choosing to embark on strike as confusion reigned at the terminal.

A traveller who was caught in the chaos as a result of the crisis told Aviation Metric that NAHCO workers on Monday morning as early as 7 am told passengers that they were on strike and were not ready to work until their demands were met.

One of the passengers who called from the airport expressed frustration at what was happening, saying that they had been left frustrated at the airport with no information from the airline.

There are indications that more airlines could be affected by the problem created by the company.

A source at NAHCO who craved anonymity told our correspondent that the management had met with the staff on Sunday over the proposed strike but assured that the situation will be addressed soon.

Not a few believe that the situation may have caused a lot of financial losses to the company, and airlines and disrupted the travel plans of many passengers.

NAHCo warehouse

Not a few believe that the situation may have caused a lot of financial losses to the company, and airlines and disrupted the travel plans of many passengers.

Meanwhile, Air Peace Airlines, one of the domestic airlines that NAHCO handles yesterday claimed that it lost over N500 million to the action of NAHCo workers, stressing that the industrial action paralysed its operations across its large network.

Wole Shadare

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