Foreign airlines operating into the country may not adversely be affected by the planned grounding of activities in Nigeria, following agitation for wage increase by the nation’s unions.
This is as aviation unions said they empathised with the domestic operators and other business organisations in the industry that would be affected by the action, saying that as affiliated members of labour centres, they had to comply with their directives.
According to Comrade Illitrus Ahmadu, President of Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), if the tripartite meeting with the federal government failed, the unions would obey the directive of the labour centres and shut down the airspace.
He, however, said that the industry unions were not unmindful of existing Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) arrangements Nigeria had with foreign countries whose airlines operate into the country, stressing that the issue at hand was a domestic one, which should not be allowed to affect international airline operators.
He recalled that during the fuel pump price hike of January 2012, the unions allowed international airline operators to reschedule their flights from 6am to 6pm, stressing that if the strike went on as planned, such treatment may recur.
Ahmadu stated that the unions had allowed international carriers to operate into the country in the past because some Nigerians caught in the web had travelled into the country for holidays and needed to return to their respective countries to resume work, adding that some were equally travelling on scheduled medical.
He said: “The fact is that we are affiliated to labour centres and we are under obligation to comply with directives. So, from the strike notice issued so far, we are to shut down by mid-night of today. However, as we speak, the tripartite discussions have resumed; they are in a meeting and our hope is that something good will come out of the meeting so that we will no longer embark on the strike.
“You know, we are in a very volatile industry. This is our own national problem; we have several bilateral agreements with most foreign nations that their airlines fly into Nigeria. It is our domestic problem. We should not allow it to adversely affect the fortunes of the international operators. We have offered a corridor where we will accommodate them. The major shut down we have had in this industry so far was during the price hike of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“You will recall then that in line with our respect for international obligations, we allowed a dispensation wherein the foreign airlines were advised to reschedule their schedules so that they can fly in within 6pm and 6am the following day. We are looking at that.
“We hope the discussions will go on well so that we will not have to go with the plan. We empathise with the industry; however, they must see where we stand that we are under obligations to comply with the directives of trade centres. We are monitoring, waiting and as soon as information comes, we will issue appropriate notices if there is a change of direction as regards area of notice.
“We should be able to reconcile our problem without adversely affecting the international carriers that we have BASAs with. We wish we could extend the same dispensation to the local industry, however, we have sat down in the past and we have argued this out.”