By Musa Sunusi Ahmad
Management of Nigeria’s foremost airline, Air Peace and its pilots are going head to head over a payment spat.
The company, hit by the harsh realities of COVID-19 and the closure of majority of airline operations sought the understanding of the pilots and other staff, as it cut salaries starting March, 2020.
Air Peace has however reneged on its initial plans as it has increased pay cuts further, to the disappointment of its pilots who are planning to hold a protest on Monday, 3rd of August, according to Newswire NGR.
In an initial email sent to its staff, Chairman and CEO of the company, Allen Onyema informed staff about pay cuts rising from 5-30% based on their incomes. This was two days before the closure of airports on the 29th of March.
Those earning above N150,000 monthly had a 5% slash while it was a 30 percent slash for those earning above N1,000,000 monthly.
While an agreement was reached and accepted by the pilots, they have accused the company of trying to sack as many staff as possible through allegedly illegal processes. This infuriated the pilots who have been at loggerheads with the management of the company since then.
Air Peace CEO, Onyema had sent series of emails to the pilots intimating them of his disappointment in them, and even revealed that he provided a platform for them to earn more and should be appreciated for his gesture.
He further explained that the company has had lesser flight operations as a result of the pandemic, and said he expected the pilots to understand this as their outputs have automatically reduced since the pandemic started.
“On May 15, copilots on the 737 fleet were called into the office, where they had their company-issued ipads and IDs taken from them and they were placed on suspension, just so the company could get them off payroll without giving them any severance pay. When flights were scheduled to resume we had a zoom meeting with Allen and he informed us that due to staggered opening of airports and a possible low passenger load, he was proposing a 40% salary cut,” Newswire reported a staff as saying.
Onyema further got livid by the actions of the pilots as he accused them of sabotaging him and even threatened to close the company down.
“It is very unfortunate that some of you chose to embarrass this airline at this point in time through various flimsy excuses such as refusal to come to work on very spurious reasons,” he wrote in an email.
“Now, the pandemic has set in with debilitating effects on every airline worldwide, Air Peace not left out, and the airline pleaded for slight readjustment in salary, which will not be permanent but will be reversed as soon as passenger traffic rebounds, yet the esteemed passengers were sadly being made to bear the brunt.
“Presently, the airline has not achieved 40 per cent of its load factor since the nation’s airspace was opened and travel resumed. So, where is the money going to come from? Have we done things others are not doing or even worse? Is it the way to reward the airline that has changed your fortunes in your chosen career?
“I am very sorry, with all this company has done for pilots especially; we will not accept blackmail even if it means closing down the airline today. Yes, I swear on it,” the memo read in part.
The pilots later revealed that 80% of their salaries were slashed with those who are not accepting being asked to leave the Organisation in different letters on Sunday, August 2nd. This according to the pilots was against the agreement they had with the management.
“We all received a revised salary structure that effectively meant our take home pay would be 20% of what it used to be pre-COVID. Efforts to get management to dialogue and understand the safety implications of their actions were only met with threats. We were planning to embark on a strike tomorrow after giving them 2 weeks for dialogue and this evening at 11pm we got termination letters,” Newswire NGR quoted a staff as saying.
The company’s flights are set to be handled by management pilots who do not usually operate on flight duties everyday. Some of those that will be involved include the Director of Flight operations, Head of training and various fleet managers in the company.