By Emmanuel Enitan
About 12 years after being left redundant, severance package of 982 ex-workers of Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO PLC) has remained unpaid and currently stuck between the company and the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).
While SAHCO keeps pushing the pensioners to BPE for their benefits, the BPE has allegedly kept mum on the overdue package worth N1.8 billion.
Apparently frustrated, the ex-workers have petitioned the Minister of Aviation, Senate and House Committee on Aviation, and Director General of the BPE over their plights.
The Federal Government, through the BPE, in 2009 privatised Skyway Aviation Handling Company (SAHCO) Plc, formerly known as Skypower Aviation Handling Company Limited. BPE paid affected workers a part terminal benefit to the tune of N2 billion.
The affected workers, however, said the balance of N1.8 billion has not been attended to in the last 12 years.
The face-off between the NAHCO management and their former workers over a N1.13 billion-worth severance package paid to the workers after the company was privatised in 2005. While the management claimed that the sum was a loan and due for repayment by the government, the workers said NAHCO had no legitimate claim to the lump sum.
General Secretary of National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Ocheme Aba, confirmed the row and the joint petition signed by NUATE and Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) to the Minister and others.
Aba observed that the BPE had set up a committee to resolve the lingering issue of payment of the redundancies of which SAHCO was part and a report was submitted in February 2020.
He said all parties involved agreed on a negotiated settlement in which SAHCO and BPE were responsible for the payment but have not done so since then.
The unions’ letter to the management of SAHCO stated: “the committee members, which consisted of all parties to the issue, agreed on a negotiated settlement sum for the redundancy. The committee also agreed that the BPE and SAHCO shall be responsible for the payment.
“Unfortunately, your management and the BPE has since February 2020 treated this very crucial matter affecting the lives of millions of hapless Nigerians with utmost levity. This is in spite of the dispassionate effort by the Honorable Minister of Aviation through his letter to the BPE on the need to effect the payments,” the letter read in part.
Ministry of Aviation on June 29, 2021 in a letter signed by Director of Human Resource Management, D.D Muhammed, wrote to the BPE on the plight of the ex-SAHCO workers, and demanded an update on the non-payment of redundancy benefits to the 982 ex-workers as agreed by the multi-agency committee constituted by the BPE in November 2019.
The Ministry also demanded modalities and timeframe that the payment may commence, stressing that it became imperative based on the series of correspondences received on the subject and threats by the ex-workers and unions as they have become agitated and are threatening industrial action on SAHCO and other aviation businesses.
Similarly, the House Committee on Aviation has equally received the petition and had written to the management of SAHCO requesting for the comprehensive brief on issues raised by the two unions in their petition as well as the current state of affairs regarding payment, total number of ex-workers affected, total amount due, timeline for payment and modalities for the exercise.
Sources at SAHCO, however, insisted that the settlement lies with BPE, and “they had assured some of the workers that they will be paid.”