Aviation unions suspend picketing of Caverton Helicopters

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…As Sudan protesters move to protect Khartoum sit-in***

The unions in the aviation sector on Monday suspended their plan to picket Caverton Helicopters Limited, following successful deliberations with the airline’s management.

The unions, however, picketed the offices of in-flight service providers, Newrest Aviation Services Limited and Serv Air, at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, for alleged anti-labour practices.

Report says that the unions are: The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) and Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (ATSSSAN).

Others are the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) and the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals (ANAP).

Mr Aba Ocheme, General Secretary, NUATE, told NAN that the picketing of Caverton Helicopters was suspended following the agreement by the management to pay all the sacked workers their entitlements.

“This morning, we held a meeting with the management of Caverton and they have agreed to pay the severance benefits of all the sacked workers within five weeks.

“They have also agreed to look into other pending issues concerning staff welfare, and have promised to give us feedback soon,” Ocheme said.

On the picketing of the in-flight service providers, he said both organisations had prevented their members from joining unions in the aviation industry.

“We have a court case with Newrest ASL at the National Industrial Court, Lagos, over this issue, but there is no court order that we cannot picket the company.

“We have some persons who have indicated interest to join us and are even paying check up dues, but the management is preventing them from doing so.

“They have even gone further to make the job difficult for these persons by victimising them,” the general secretary said.

He disclosed that the picketing of both companies would continue on Tuesday, as other affiliate trade unions from outside the aviation sector had indicated interest to join the protest.

In the meantime, Sudanese protesters moved to block an attempt on Monday to break up a sit-in outside the Defense Ministry, where demonstrators have been pushing for a quick transition to civilian rule after President Omar al-Bashir was ousted, a Reuters witness said.

Troops had gathered on three sides of the sit-in and tractors were preparing to remove stone and metal barriers, but protesters joined hands and formed rings around the sit-in area to prevent them.

The protesters, numbering about 5,000 with more arriving, chanted “Freedom, freedom” and “Revolution, revolution”, and appealed to the army to protect them.

Some drummed and waved national flags as they mingled in the street, while others took shelter from the sun under parasols and makeshift tents.

Earlier, Sudan’s main protest group, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), issued an urgent call for people to join the sit-in and foil any attempt to disperse it.

“We hope that everyone will head immediately to the areas of the sit-in to protect your revolution and your accomplishments,” the SPA said.

It said there were continuing attempts to disband the sit-in.

The sit-in outside the compound, which also includes the intelligence headquarters and the presidential residence, began on April 6, after more than three months of protests triggered by a deepening economic crisis.

On Thursday, Sudan’s army announced that it had removed and detained Bashir after three decades in power and was setting up a transitional military council to run the country.

Since then the head of the military council and of Sudan’s powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) have both been replaced, as protesters have continued to call for change.

The SPA has demanded the immediate handover of power to a civilian transitional government as well as the prosecution of former officials.

On Monday the military council said it was restructuring the joint forces command, appointing a new chief of staff for the army and a deputy.

Britain’s ambassador to Sudan, Irfan Siddiq, said he had met the deputy head of the transitional military council, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, and had “asked for clarity on whereabouts of former President Bashir and other senior former regime figures”.

When the military announced Bashir’s ousting, they said he had been arrested and was being kept at a “safe place”.

Sudanese sources told Reuters that Bashir was at a presidential residence under “heavy guard”.

Siddiq said on Twitter he had also requested the reform of the NISS and the release of detainees, as well as the cancellation of all bureaucracy and permits for delivering humanitarian aid.

Dagalo, known by his nickname Hemedti, heads Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which human rights groups have accused of widespread abuses in the Western region of Darfur.

Sudan’s government has previously denied wrongdoing by the RSF.