Palpable fear has gripped over 8,000 airline and allied workers as employers begin massive cut of salaries, amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has led to the grounding of over 76 domestic planes.
Arik Air on Wednesday slashed the April salaries of its workers by 80 per cent and sent over 90 per cent of its over 1,500 employees on compulsory leave without pay.
Already, Azman Air and Max Air had sent over 1,000 workers on compulsory leave without pay, citing the ravaging effect of the COVID-19 on business.
The eight domestic airlines and allied companies account for over 8,000 jobs.
Air Peace, Aero Contractors, Dana Air told Sunday PUNCH over the weekend they had yet to take a decision.
On whether Air Peace would cut down on staff salaries, the carrier’s spokesperson, Stanley Olisa, said the airline had yet to decide on what it would do regarding the issue.
He said, “No such decision has been taken. If any decision on that has been taken, of course, we will have to put out a statement through the media.
“So for now, no decision of such has been taken by the management.”
Olisa admitted that Air Peace had been observing the lockdown order of the Federal Government, saying the management had not concluded on whether to cut staff salaries or ask workers to proceed on leave.
He said, “I saw the report on Arik but the management of Air Peace has not taken any such decision.
“Again, if there is such a decision we will put it out and you will know. So for now nothing like that with Air Peace.”
For Dana Air, the airline also said it had not decided on the matter yet. The spokesperson for Dana Air, Okwudili Ezenwa, said the airline would come up with its plan after the end of the current lockdown.
He said, “No decision has been taken for now on staff and payments. You know the current lockdown ends next week Monday.
“So hopefully we should have a plan by next week.”
However, sources close to the carrier said there were speculations that Aero might cut workers’ salaries by as much as 50 per cent this month.
Meanwhile, operators in Nigeria’s airline and tourism sub-sectors have put the economic stimulus package required by the industry at about N45bn.
According to them, the intervention would help curtail job losses, pay cuts and other economic woes currently bedevilling the sectors.
This came as two indigenous airlines, Air Peace and Dana Air, declared that they had yet to decide on pay cuts for workers or whether to ask their employees to go on compulsory leave.
Both airlines disclosed this on Friday after Arik Air slashed salaries of its workers by about 80 per cent and sent about 90 per cent of its employees on compulsory leave without pay.
Reacting to the instability in the travels and tourism sub-sectors caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Institute for Tourism Professionals of Nigeria urged the Federal Government to accord priority and prime attention to the sectors in all its economic stimulus, palliatives and interventions.
The National President, ITPN, Abiodun Odusanwo, said the sectors had suffered the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic because of the nature and economic activities of the business that involved the movement of people and services. This, he said, was why operators in the sectors needed urgent an intervention from the government to salvage the sectors from looming collapse.
On areas that required intervention, Odusanwo said they include the grant of a moratorium period for all bank facilities received by operators in the travel-hospitality and the tourism sub-sectors for a period of not less than six months.
He called for a tax free regime in the first and second quarters of 2020 as part of the post COVID-19 intervention.
He said there was the need for immediate promotion of domestic tourism as an inward strategy to boost inbound tourism due to the dwindling fortunes of international travel bans and restrictions.
“Also needed is a financial intervention of N15.5bn for job losses, pay cuts, sustainable professional competency training for members across the country and N30bn economic stimulus for the sector,” he stated.
He said sustainable business activities in the tourism sector had been completely hampered by the restrictions placed on the movement of people and the lockdown of most parts of the country.
Odusanwo observed that what the tourism sector was currently witnessing were travel restrictions and recommendations leading to the outright cancellations of travel and accommodation bookings.
He stressed that as long as the pandemic lasted, the impact on tourism would be irreversible leading to a myriad of operational challenges and losses.
Odusanwo said in economic terms, hotels would lose billions from cancellations, smaller ones would stop operations, while unemployment would skyrocket in the sector.
“Travel agencies and tour operators will go bankrupt, transfer companies will be economically destroyed and all forms of travels will be completely grounded,” he stated.
The ITPN president noted that the labour force in the sector would suffer similar fate as employees would be forced to take unpaid leaves, while others would work as part-time staff.
Also, the workers under the aegis of Hotel and Personal Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, an affiliate of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, have called on the Federal Government to prevail on employers to pay salaries and not downsize.
Expressing fears that employers might sack workers, they pleaded with the government to intervene as laying off any workers at this critical time could lead to industrial unrest.
The National President of HAPSSSA, Adegbe William Iyeh, and General Secretary, Gbenga Isola, expressed their position in statement to Sunday PUNCH.
They were responding to questions on the effect of the lockdown over the coronavirus pandemic on the hospitality sector.
The document read, “Coronavirus outbreak has exposed the state of destitution of our healthcare facilities in Nigeria and the need to declare a state of emergency in the sector to reposition its purposeful needs and rank among the world best.
“The resultant effects of the lockdown of the country have greatly affected the hospitality and tourism sectors adversely with virtually all hotels closed down completely in Nigeria and the catering section can no longer provide services to their clients.”
By Oyetunji Abioye, Friday Olokor and Okechukwu Nnodim