The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) have continued to lay siege at the Newrest ASL, the in-flight catering service in the Nigeria aviation industry over the refusal of the management to allow the workers to join the unions of their choice.
NUATE has since Monday grounded the operations of Newrest ASL, which has affected the company’s catering services to some of the airlines it serves at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos.
This is as the union threatened to picket the entire offices of the catering service nationwide from today (Wednesday) if the management refused to listen to its demands.
At the picketing ground in Lagos Airport, Mr. Olatunji Abioye, the General Secretary, NUATE, accused the management of compelling the workers to remain with a union they felt was not protecting their interests.
Speaking with aviation journalists, Abioye alleged that the workers who before now belonged to the National Union of Hotels, approached NUATE for membership, but the management insisted that the workers must remain with the former union, stressing that the insistence of the management ran contrary to Section 40 of the Nigeria constitution.
He purported that the insistence of the workers to join NUATE and other unions of their choice in the Nigerian aviation industry, led to intimidation and transfer of some of the workers out of Lagos Airport, but declared that the union would continue to resist any form of harassment by the management.
Abioye also accused the National Union of Hotels of conniving with the management to short-change the workers, alleging that the union consistently receive kickbacks from the management against the interest of the workers, which they were supposed to protect.
According to him, before the union took the decisive action, all attempts by the union to hold a meeting with the management proved abortive.
He said: “Section 40 of the Nigerian constitution allows citizens of Nigeria to freely associate and choose the union, political party or association of their choice. Before now, workers of this company were members of the National Union of Hotels and after several years, they realised that they were not getting value for their unionism.
“They indicated their willingness to opt out of the union, which they felt didn’t protect their interest. What the former union continued to do was to visit the management, romance the management and take advantage of the situation with them and moved on as if the interest of the workers they were supposed to protect did not matter any longer.
“The workers individually approached our union. This company was established primarily to provide in-flight catering service to airlines that are even members of our union. So, the workers should stay within the industry and join the unions in the industry.
“We followed the laws and wrote for a meeting with the management and it was at this point that the management passed our letter to their legal consultant, which we received. The letter insisted that the workers could not belong to us, rather to continue to be part of the hotel union, which is against the law. So, the matter became a ding dung affairs.”
He declared that the picketing of the company would spread to other parts of the country by today (Wednesday) if the management refused to hearken to the demands of the workers.