The Only Way To Defeat The Virus Is For All Of Us To Work Together!

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Being 2020 May Day Address by the National President of the National Union of Air Transport Employees, Comrade Ben Nnabue

Greetings dear Comrades!

TODAY, May 1, 2020 is International Workers Day, otherwise called May Day. The day is set aside globally to celebrate the heroics and invaluable contributions of workers to the development of society and advancement of mankind. The day offers opportunity for organised labour to reflect on the vistas of collectivism and solidarity among global, national and sub-national labour fronts, and everything else in between.

The 2020 May Day celebration is, however, overshadowed by the rampant, ravaging COVID-19 pandemic and efforts worldwide to contain, control and defeat the virus. The celebration is further dampened by the dark clouds of job insecurity and hyper instability of income hanging over the heads of all workers, especially in our industry. This foreshadowing by ominous clouds has stolen the celebration from this year’s May Day. As a result, this May Day bears the unique toga of a celebration without celebrating.

As we mark the Workers Day from the safety of our homes where the ubiquitous   COVID-19 pandemic has sentenced us all, we cannot but reflect deeply on the present and future conditions in the world of work as being dictated by the pandemic. While the immediate task is to find how to cope with the hardships imposed by income challenges, the medium and long terms pose a different kind of challenge. This is the fact that the world of work is being remodelled via the present constraints against physical congregations at work. This emerging world – a virtual world – portends an early arrival of the future of work that has been much hyped in recent times.

This early arrival of the future poses great uncertainty in the world of work. For sure, the workplace will not be the same again. But how fast this change will catch on remains to be seen. The big question, however, and which every worker must ask and answer is, “if my workplace becomes virtual today, would there be a place in there for me?” Or, “How can I prepare myself for a virtual workplace so that I’m not left behind?” Your honest answers to these questions will help attune each and all to the reality of the times.

Away from the workplace, there seems to be a bigger and even more present danger on the home front. That of economic survival. It is of extreme importance that comrades take seriously all advice concerning astute management of financial resources at this time. This is time to practice frugality. Two things to bear in mind are, (1) take every income at this time to be the last in a long while, and (2) before parting with money for anything whatsoever, ask yourself what will possibly be missing your life without the object of your desire. If the answer is “nothing significant”, then don’t part with the money. This issue cannot be overlooked or overstated as the times are such that help is unlikely to come from anywhere else at these trying times. Pls help yourself o!

As a leadership, we have accepted these challenges and we are committed to playing our part in preparing you, our members, for the challenges. As we grapple with survival strategies for the home front, we must also advance strategies to handle this future that is arriving earlier than envisaged. This is a cataclysmic paradigm change which must take centre stage in our plans and efforts in the coming weeks and months.

Now, however, there is a pandemic on our hands to contend with. For as long as the pandemic lasts, our lives will remain under its control. The only way to get our lives back to normal is to defeat the virus. And the only way to defeat the virus is for all of us to work together. The citizenry, the governments at all levels, and the global community must join forces and combine efforts and move in the same direction. For this to happen each and all must play well their parts. In this case, the responsible role for us to play as good citizens is to comply with all rules and guidelines issued by all governments and their appropriate agencies. It is important to stress that the present dire situation cannot afford rebellion and resistance against government. We need to set aside all differences and cooperate with one another by being pliant to rules. Together we shall defeat this unseen enemy. Yes!

We have appealed to the managements of all our partner organisations to allow the humanity in them come afore at this time of human tragedy. We urge them to deep hands into their sinking funds and assure continuity of income for their workers – you, our members. We sincerely hope they understand with us and mitigate the catastrophe that could befall workers should they have to suffer the double jeopardy of the lockdown and significant or total loss of income. We are pleased that so far, the majority of our host organisations have shown substantial understanding. We urge the few odd ones like Arik Air and Aero Contractors to quickly adjust and tow the path of positive engagement. We are confident that the spirit of true partnership we have successfully built at this period will assure that we pull through this difficult time together, with all the companies and our members intact.

We have equally appealed to the Federal Government to come to the aid of aviation companies and agencies. Our industry, being about the worst hit by the pandemic, runs a very high risk of total collapse without government intervention or bailout, in one form or another. We therefore hope that Government will not only listen to our plea but will accord priority and urgency to the aviation sector in respect of the expected intervention. In this regard, we expect also that the handling of workers welfare will play significant role in the extent of access by the companies to the bailout measures.

As an affiliate of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), there are lots of things we are doing in collaboration with Congress which we hope will bear positive fruits soon enough. So, please keep hope alive!

As already stated, this is an unusual May Day celebration. We therefore wish to be sensitive to the trying times and not delve into hard core trade union matters. Suffice, however, to assure you that your great union, NUATE, is well and fully alive to its responsibilities and commitments to you, our esteemed members. In due course, we shall create opportunities to look critically at our journey thus far and projections into the future. I salute and thank my fellow NAC members, all NEC members and branch officers for your support, solidarity and great work you have all put in for the union which has given us respect and breathed confidence in our collective leadership among the entire membership.

Finally dear comrades, I would like to use this opportunity to pay tribute to our departed hero, the late Comrade Abdukareem Motajo, our erstwhile General Secretary – may his memory remain blessed. Motajo was an international trade union colossus who NUATE was exceedingly blessed with. His infectious friendship, his vast knowledge and experience, coupled with his principled pragmatism, brought NUATE into national and international prominence and respect.

We are extremely sad to lose him at a time when we still had so much to benefit from his native intelligence and unifying spirit. While acknowledging his immense contribution to NUATE’s standing in the comity of trade unions worldwide, and the tremendous impact he made on the welfare and wellbeing of our members nationwide through his astute negotiation skills, we nonetheless bow to God’s wishes and bid him farewell. We pray for peace between his soul and his maker. And may our merciful God grant his family succour and provisioning.

Let me conclude by assuring you all that whatever the challenges of today, know it that together we shall overcome. Yes, we shall overcome!

Long live Nigerian workers!!!

Long live Aviation workers!!!

Long live NUATE!!!

Solidarity forever!!!

Comrade Ben K. Nnabue

National President, NUATE

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