COVID-19: Airline operators accused of maltreating pilots, other employees

June 18, 2020
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PRESIDENT of Flight Crew Association of Nigeria (FCAN), Captain Roland Robert has accused airline operators of failing to protect the interest of pilots and other employees in the sector, describing the decision by some airlines not to pay either full or part salaries during the pandemic as not healthy for the survival of such professionals.

Speaking in an aviation webinar, Robert lamented how pilots and other flight crew professionals in the aviation sector continued to suffer  inhuman treatment in the hands of the operators who have either laid them off or asked them to work from home with ridiculous fractions of their remuneration paid.

According to Roland, such an arrangement does not guarantee confidence for the aviation professionals, as it could make them see themselves as unwanted in the air travel value chain.

FCAN, which he described as the grouping of pilots in Nigeria and overseas consistently and seeking ways to improve the lot of the industry has been affected by some developments in the sector hence, urging airlines to consider as priority the issue of medical check up for pilots, which they have to undergo once or twice in a year.

His words: “Basically, we will have to undergo a medical check once or twice a year. Airlines should look into that one so that pilots can go for their medical checks for those who have expired. While we pilots sit down at home, it takes a toll on the individual and then when you hear some companies trying to lay off then panic sets in and often times we have pilots not doing anything and any other job aside their professional call which is flying. So, they have all their attention on studying on preparedness for flight and all of that, they have no other sources of income.”

While declaring that situations that could trigger anxiety for flight crew personnel in the industry was not healthy, Roland urged airline operators to take steps that would guarantee job security, saying: “Certainly, when we have situations like this panic sets in. So, companies should actually make sure that they reassure them of their job as well so that they know that we need you and we want you. We expect companies will not be able to pay 100 per cent  of salaries  since the lockdown started due to prevailing conditions.

“But, some companies are living up to expectations since the announcement of the COVID-19 in March. Some paid 100 per cent salaries in March, some paid only 60 percent, thereafter some paid nothing and so for the past two months most pilots in Nigeria have not been paid a dime except Aero Contractors. I think Arik also paid a certain percentage less than 50 per cent  to staff that is for health and occupational safety.

“For  job security, airlines have to ensure the welfare of their staff, because  it is not profitable for you to lay off your good staff.”

The peculiarities of the aviation sector, he said, scarcely creates room for working remotely because the personnel deal with the equipment.

“As regards remote working, it is almost impossible right now to work from home because we have machines that we operate and these are technical machines and what we can do as regards to that one is to probably to find some online training that keeps the crew up to date and keep them recurrent with the machine system, with the operational system, working all of this together may become a full solution for the pilots.”

He expressed dismay over the parlous handling of flight crew welfare by some airlines saying :”Yes most of the airlines in Nigeria have not paid salaries and I can list some of them, Azman for example, no salary since March.

“Max Air did not even get any letter or notification, Arik Air for one from the month of March afterward pay somewhat about 20 per cent  or thereabout, Air Peace in March paid somewhat about 70 per cent  of their salary to them even though they worked full month and there after they have received zero salary. Aero Contractors was about a 100 per cent  in March they receive but thereafter, the salary was scaled down to about 50 per cent or less. Other companies who paid in the region of 70 per cent  are airlines that are involved in the oil and gas, Bristow for one is one of those able airlines.”

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