Aero Contractors Airline, which is under the management of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), has sacked more than 700 of its workers representing 60 per cent of its workforce.
Letters of redundancy were issued to the affected employees during the week.
Media Consultant to the airline, Simon Tumba, who confirmed the development in a statement issued on Thursday in Lagos, said the workers would be paid their pension and gratuity.
Tumba said the airline had been grappling with huge and unrealistic personnel cost as well as other operational challenges worsened by lack of enough aircraft to keep all the workers meaningfully engaged.
“The issuance of notification of redundancy is a business decision that will ensure Aero’s survival.
“The current situation where over a thousand people are basically not engaged due to lack of serviceable aircraft is not sustainable for the airline.
“The huge monthly salary associated with a bloated workforce will eventually kill the airline, which is not the intention of the current government,” he said.
According to him, Aero Contractors currently has aircraft-to-employee ratio of 1:500, which analysts believe is perhaps the worse in the history of global airline industry.
Tumba said government’s intervention in Aero was to save it from total collapse therefore, all steps such as this (issuance of redundancy letters) to ensure its survival must be put into consideration to save the airline.
He said ”This decision will immediately reduce the whooping operational cost, which has been stifling Aero; enable the management bring in more aircraft through savings from overheads and pay for C-checks.
“It will also enable Aero have a more manageable and committed workforce in line with international best practices of 50 to 60 personnel to one aircraft unlike what obtains in Aero at the moment.”
He, however, added that those in Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) and other essential staff in critical departments would not be affected.
Tumba said Capt. Ado Sanusi, the Chief Executive Officer of Aero, had also assured the workers that they stand a chance of being recalled as soon as the airline increases the number of aircraft in its fleet in the near future.
A part of the redundancy letter made available to our correspondent read: “Following the operational challenges of Aero culminating in loss of business opportunities that adversely affected company finances vis-à-vis operations, we are constrained to place you under redundancy pending a possible future review.
“This decision was communicated to the unions where their understanding was solicited in view of prevailing operational difficulties.
“Whilst Aero appreciates your contribution to the company and continues to regard you as worthy ambassadors, we solicit your understanding as we struggle to stabilise operations and rebuild the company.”
However, the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and the Air Transport Senior Staff Services Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN) , have kicked against the move by the airline.
Frances Akinjole, General Secretary, ATSSSAN, told NAN that a notification had been sent by the unions to the affected workers not to accept the “purported letter of redundancy “.
“We are totally against it because in the first place, our members are still being owed salaries and we have not even negotiated the redundancy package.
“If they go ahead with this move then the unions are prepared to face them headlong,” he said.
AMCON took over the management of the airline in Feb 2016 following its inability to settle about N126.87 billion indebtedness.