Over 100 angry workers of Landover Helicopter Company, early on Monday morning, shut down operations in the company’s offices in Warri, Delta State, and Lagos in protest of alleged unjust conditions of service and non-remittance of taxes deducted from them for almost 15 years.
Bearing a variety of placards, the workers arrived the company’s offices as early as 4 am, disrupting off-shore operations in Warri. In Lagos, they barricaded the entrance to the company’s office with vehicles, preventing staff from gaining entrance.
Some of the placards bore protest messages such as “No to anti-labour practices”, “15 years no gratuity or pay-off”, “No proof of tax payment”, “No to delay of salaries payments” “Remit our pension” and “Enough of wrongful dismissal”.
Supported by the Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN), the irate workers accused the management of indifference to their conditions of service as spelled out by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity.
The company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) arrived the Lagos office at about 8 am and met the entrance barricaded. Along with other staff of the company, he attempted, unsuccessfully, to push the protesting workers’ vehicles away from the entrance.
Speaking to journalists at the Lagos venue of the protest, ATSSSAN President, Mr. Ahmadu Ilitrus, said the protest would not have taken place if the management of the company had stayed faithful to implemented the conditions of service, which were agreed on in March 2016.
“We have been talking, but there are few areas that we have not been able to agree on. These are fundamental areas covered by the laws. For instance, Landover says if they have a disciplinary committee to try our members, no union should be a part of it. This is unheard off. The law requires that the union to which the officer belongs should be represented even in an observer capacity. We’ve been telling them for a long time, but they don’t seem to agree with it,” he said.
After the last meeting on the matter, which was adjourned, added the ATSSSAN President, there was no progress when they reconvened the next day because the company said it had referred the matter to the Federal Ministry of Labour.
“I think all these could have been avoided. When it was agreed that we should sign a Memorandum of Understanding, the Landover management walked out of the meeting, saying they were not going to sign.
“If you serve up to 15 years in Landover, you are not entitled to more than N340,000 no matter your position. This is unfortunate and unacceptable to us. The only way forward is for the management to come down from their high horse and discuss with us,” said Mr. Ilitrus.
A staff, who preferred anonymity out of fear of being sacked, accused the management of desperation to quell legitimate agitation by sacking union members on flimsy excuses.
He alleged that staff taxes of over 10 years have not remitted to the government despite being deducted from workers’ salaries. “I’ve been in this company now for 15 years and I’m yet to see any tax clearance document or paper,” he claimed, adding that the management’s decision to fix the retirement age between 40 and 50 years is at variance with the labor law.
The staff contended that the Cumulative Bargain Agreement (CBA) contained in the conditions of service has been serially violated by the management.
“A senior staff of this company was sacked for no just reason after serving for 15 years and three months. He was paid only N340,000 as entitlements and benefits. We disagreed with this because this is not what is in our Cumulative Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The document is very clear on what should be paid to workers that are disengaged. There should even be redundancy package for the person,” he added.
He explained that the company pulled out of talks with workers after realizing that it was losing grounds in the discussion, following its decision to take the matter to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity.