As the airline industry struggles to recover from the devastation of COVID-19, Aviation Minister Senator Hadi Sirika has warned aviation unions against going on strike, stressing that such an action would jeopardize the efforts made to revive the sector.
Speaking yesterday at the Third National Conference of Delegates of the Association of Senior Air Transport Services Staff (ATSSSAN), held in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, the Minister, who was represented by the Commissioner of the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), Akin Olateru, said the serious challenge posed by COVID-19 requires all stakeholders to work together to chart a viable path towards a strong and healthy aviation industry that would provide all, including to workers, the desired benefits.
He said the projected growth for the Nigerian air transport market was 174% over the next 20 years, stressing that if achieved, the growth would support around $ 4.7 billion in GDP and more than 555,000 jobs. .
He regretted the impact of COVID-19 in the aviation sector, which has made air transport one of the main victims of the pandemic.
Sirika noted that the pandemic has left businesses, especially airlines, racking up losses, stressing that even at the best of times, the aviation industry is known for its low profit margins.
Sirika stressed that the sector is in a period of recovery, insisting that now is not the time for threats and the wave of industrial action, which he says will only further hamper the growth of industry.
“IATA records show that in 2018, air transport in Nigeria supported 241,000 jobs with a gross value added to GDP of $ 1.7 billion. The predicted growth for the Nigerian air transport market was 174% over the next 20 years. If achieved, that would support around $ 4.7 billion in GDP and over 555,000 jobs.
“However, unfortunately and unpredictably, the pandemic has struck, and aviation has become one of the main victims of COVID-19, which virtually crippled the world and its economies between 2020 and 2021.
“The serious challenge posed by COVID-19 requires all stakeholders to work together to chart a viable path towards a strong and healthy aviation industry that will provide everyone, including workers, with the desired dividends. Unions have a vital role to play in the growth and maintenance of the aviation industry, as their members constitute the majority of workers who work day and night to keep the industry running smoothly.
“It is understood that unions exist to serve the interests of their members. However, in an industry known for its low margins, especially the airline industry where labor is one of the biggest costs, reducing labor costs becomes very attractive and unions will always be active. Yet industry needs labor just as labor needs industry.
“We are in a period of recovery; So now is not the time for the threats and wave of industrial action that will only further hamper the much-needed growth of the industry, ”he said.
Sirika also urged the government, employers and workers to work together for the best interests of the aviation industry, noting that such a step would be what would ensure job security and prosperity for stakeholders. .
He said that in 2020, at the height of the pandemic, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) representing aviation and other transport workers around the world, had partnered with the Transport Association. Aviation International (IATA), which represents aviation employers, to chart a course for the future of aviation.
“We must first work together to save aviation and maintain global supply chains. Our unions and the aviation management should prioritize collaborative dialogue to ensure the financial health of the industry and the preservation and growth that comes with it, which will eventually enable aviation employers to offer conditions of service. acceptable to their workers.
“We will continue to support workers in policies and strategic measures aimed at repositioning the industry. We also expect unions to make this gesture with a little more consideration and support in the best interest of the aviation sub-sector, ”added Sirika.