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Angry workers ground Aero planes, passengers stranded

By The Citizen
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Aggrieved workers of Aero Nigeria grounded the entire aircraft fleet of the airline on Wednesday, leaving hundreds of its domestic air passengers stranded at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos.

The protest, backed by aviation unions, paralysed the entire flight operation of the airline as none of its flights could take off across the country.

The airline's check-in and ticketing counters were deserted from morning till evening on Wednesday as the angry workers refused to work.

The protesting workers accused the Aero management of 'administrative fraud, high handedness as well as anti-labour and union postures.'

The development forced the management to officially announce the suspension of its flight operations through a press statement.

The aggrieved workers demanded, among other things, the sacking of the airline's director of human resources, whom they accused of implementing anti-labour policies.

Our correspondent learnt that trouble started some time last month when the airline outsourced the drivers' unit.

The decision, which the workers claimed was done without the payment of severance package or negotiation with the affected drivers, was said to have been later rescinded by the Aero management.

The aggrieved workers claimed that there were plans to outsource other departments, including the commercial unit, to certain companies.

When contacted, the Aero management said the workers were merely trying to blackmail the company, adding that the airline was only carrying out a reorganisation that would lead to the growth of the company.

The management said in a statement, 'The management is on a reorganisation drive to ensure a more efficient, dependable, reliable and safe workforce, which the unions are resisting and unwilling to sit and talk.

'It is a known strategy of unions to use blackmail to achieve undesired goals and this should be rebuffed in line with the law. Aero has cancelled all flights pending resolution of the crisis with unions.'

The President, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association, Mr. Benjamin Okewu, said Aero workers were the people protesting, but that the union had intervened with a view to resolving the matter through dialogue.

'There is nothing that cannot be resolved through dialogue. There are several issues but we believe they can be settled through dialogue,' he said.

Aero passengers at the airport complained bitterly about how the sudden cancellation of flights had affected their plans.

Some of the angry passengers later left for Aero's corporate office after waiting endlessly for solution at MMA2.

The Commercial Manager, Aero, Doyin Omoniyi-Ojo, attempted to address the passengers, but the situation became more chaotic.

However, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, Airport Command, Mr. Chuks Enwonwu, made efforts to calm the angry passengers.

Meanwhile, the union has given Aero management another 14-day ultimatum to back down on its 'anti-labour plans' or face an industrial action.

As at the time of filing in this report at 4pm, the airline had yet to resume flight operations.