Controversies have continued to trail the sack of eight Nigerian pilots at Arik Air by the airline’s management.
While the management alleged that the pilots were dismissed for embarking on “illegal strike action,” the local pilots in the airline claimed that their sack was based on their raising of safety concerns in the operations of the airline.
A document obtained by DAILY INDEPENDENT with the head: ‘Call for Acknowledgement of Safety Concerns,’ stated that on December 16, 2021, the local pilots of Arik Air in receivership had written a letter with regards to many persistent issues intertwined with safety in the airline after a series of verbal requests to meet the Receiver Manager, Mr Kamilu Omokide.
The pilots claimed that it was clear the receiver manager was not willing to meet the pilots or wrote back to acknowledge their requests for a physical meeting with it.
Rather than meet with the pilots, the pilots claimed that Omokide composed an end of year email to all staff, and advised the pilots to resign in orderly manner, instead of having a meeting with him.
The document regretted that the situation created a shared sentiment among the local pilots, claiming that their grave concerns had been dismissed and were of the opinion that drastic action was required to address the safety issue in the airline.
The document added: “After our letter to the management of Arik Air in receivership, requesting to see the receiver-manager did not acknowledge, on Monday, December 20, 2021, we wrote to Arik Operations and Crew Control, notifying them that due to serious safety concerns, we will be unavailable to fly until we had the opportunity to share these concerns with the receiver-manager. The issues existence affected all staff, inclusive of drivers, cabin crew and even baggage handlers.
“All local pilots were called for an emergency meeting scheduled for 21:00 on December 20, 2021. All local pilots attended this impromptu meeting and again, requested a virtual meeting with the receiver manager as it was felt that it was best to share our concerns with the head of the company.
“During the meeting, we were informed that the receiver manager was not interested in meeting with us until further notice, due to his state of mind, which we felt disregarded the significance and seriousness of our request.”
The pilots insisted that if they were unable to share their concerns with regards to morale, remuneration and the current safety issues in existence, with the appropriate company representative, then they would not be able to fly until the issues were addressed.
According to the pilots, they had issued a prior notice in order to avoid any flight disruption on Tuesday, December 21, 2021, insisting that their action was in accordance with the letter.
It, however, regretted that at 14:00 on the same Tuesday, eight local pilots were issued dismissal letters by the management, accusing them of “gross misconduct due to the abandonment of duty.”
The pilots declared that it would not allow any member of staff to be sacked for simply desiring to keep safety at the forefront of company’s operations
But, Arik Air in a statement by Mr Adebanji Ola, its Communications Manager, insisted that the pilots were dismissed for gross acts of indiscipline.
According to the airline, the affected pilots were dismissed for “embarking on a strike action without recourse to lay down procedures.”
The airline insisted that the said pilots did not serve strike notice in accordance with labour laws, maintaining that they neither submitted any issue of the dispute to the National Association of Airline Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), their umbrella union nor did they submit any statement of demands to the management of the company.