The efforts made to address the workers of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) by the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, to forestall their one-day warning strike was yesterday thwarted when the unions locked up the venue of the meeting at the headquarters of the agency at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.Not sure of the plan of the workers, the minister sent the Managing Director of FAAN, Captain Rabiu Hamisu Yadudu, who came with some top officials of his management to open discussion with the workers before the minister's arrival, but the unions, made up of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Air Transport Service Senior Staff Association (ATSSSAN), shunned the entreaties by Yadudu.
Not ready to yield to the request of the minister, the unions addressed the workers and condemned the plan of the federal government to concession the terminals of the four international airports in the country located in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Kano, and insisted also that FAAN management must restore full salary of the workers.
The President of NUATE, Ben Nnabue, explained why the FAAN workers decided to embark on strike.
According to him, "This is a warning strike, and the minister cannot come and talk to our workers directly without us. This action is just for today, after which, we will renegotiate with the management. But if the minister comes to meet with the FAAN management without the unions, the strike will continue."
The Secretary-General of NUATE, Ocheme Aba, who also addressed the workers, said if the management of FAAN obliged the agreement reached, the warning strike would end today, and a week would be allowed for the management to meet the demands of the workers to avert a full blown indefinite strike.
A fortnight ago, the unions had issued a seven-day ultimatum to FAAN, declaring a dispute and demanding payment of salaries, gratuity and other emoluments to avert any industrial action.
On planned concession, Aba said the concession programme was done in a way to cripple and finally destroy FAAN, and explained that already, the federal government owes China about $1 billion as the cost of the four terminal built at the aforementioned airports, which would be paid by FAAN; "so monies accruable to the agency would be used for debt servicing, maintenance of other 18 airports and other expenses leaving nothing for FAAN to survive with.
"The new Chinese terminals are going to be concessioned where the concessionaire will receive 60 per cent of the sharing formula while FAAN will retain 40 per cent, and what will happen to the 40 per cent that FAAN will retain? From that 40 per cent, FAAN will pay the Chinese loan and return 25 per cent to the federal government, according to the Fiscal Responsibility Act. Also, from that 40 per cent, FAAN will maintain the other 18 airports, including all the workers of FAAN.
"So the point is, these new terminals have already been concessioned, and what is happening is that the federal government is seeking to concession a concession. Now, this concessionaire will take 60 per cent; I'm sure you'd want to ask me what is his contribution, what is he going to do? According to the plan, which is based on a study, according to the traffic flow, there will be no need for any expansion in this terminal until the year 2045."