One of Nigeria’s leading indigenous airlines, Air Peace, on Monday, sacked 75 pilots, hinging reasons on financial constraints posed by the COVID-19 era.
Some of the affected workers, however, claimed that their “sudden” disengagement was not unconnected with the recent row over pay cut and mild protest by the professionals.
Local airline operators have been battling with financial stability since the emergence of the pandemic and had taken a turn for the worse, with more now insolvent, and struggling to meet financial obligations.
According to reports, all the carriers had pruned their crew and slashed salaries by between 50 and 80 per cent as at last weekend.
Air Peace which has the largest fleet in Nigeria accounts for about 40 per cent passenger traffic in the country.
It was gathered that the sacked 75 pilots had recently protested against pay cut, with the chairman, Allen Onyema, allegedly threatening to shut down the firm.
Onyema, in a memo, had noted that the prevailing “unfavourable circumstance warranted the pay cut, which would take effect for 90 days in the first instance.”
He said management would revert when passenger traffic improves. Yet, “the pilot still chose not to fly. Thus, embarrassing the company and also portraying the airline in an unpleasant image in the estimation of its esteemed passengers.”
According to the chief executive, “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.”
The management, in a reaction on Monday, also described the move as “very painful but rightful decision in the circumstances the airline has found itself as a result of the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on its operations and financial health.”
It explained that the decision was taken for the good of the company and its almost 3,000 workforce.
“The airline cannot afford to toe the path of being unable to continue to fulfil its financial obligations to its staff, external vendors, aviation agencies, maintenance organisations, insurance companies, banks and other creditors hence the decision to restructure its entire operations with a view to surviving the times.
“The pandemic has hit every airline worldwide so badly that it has become very impossible for airlines to remain afloat without carrying out internal restructuring of their costs. Anything short of what we have done may lead to the collapse of an airline as could be seen in some places worldwide during this period,” the airline said.