Virgin Atlantic’s Nigerian crew members threaten suit over sack notice

virgin-atlantic-airbusPlan by Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited to sack it’s Nigerian crew members may soon be challenged in court, counsel to the workers, Chief Felix Fagbohungbe (SAN), has said.

The airline recently served notice of termination of appointments of its Nigerian crew members, saying the Nigerian route was no longer economically viable.

Owner of Virgin Atlantic, Richard Branson, had described the Nigerian political and economic space as very difficult for business, and insinuated that the global airline operator’s partnership deals with the Nigerian state crashed on the back of corruption.

Spokesperson of the airline in Nigeria, Kudirat Scott-Igbene, was quoted as saying that the company was only closing down its crew base in Lagos since it would no longer be required for its Lagos route. “We have decided that we will no longer have crew based in Lagos,” she said.

“This is by no means a reflection on our Lagos-based cabin crew; the primary purpose of our locally based cabin crew has been to provide cultural expertise, and customer feedback has shown us that this is no longer a requirement on the Lagos route.”

Fagbohungbe, in a letter dated November 17 and addressed to the airline’s management, urged Virgin Atlantic to withdraw the notice of termination of employment it served on the workers, a copy of which was made available to The Guardian yesterday.

He warned that his firm would institute a suit against the company and other necessary parties in respect of the subject matter if the said notices were not withdrawn by the company within seven days from the date of the letter.

In the letter, which he copied to the Chairman of the company, Richard Branson, ministers of Aviation and Transport, director general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Senate Committee on Aviation, managing director, Aviation Logistics and Management Limited as well as the International Cabin Crew Manager of the company, Mr. Alasdair Boyle, the lawyer said the decision to terminate his clients’ appointment is unjust.

He said: “Having regard to the peculiar circumstances of the intended termination of our clients’ employment with Virgin Atlantic, it is reasonable to come to the conclusion that same was based on bias and predicated on our clients’ race, colour, national extraction and social origin. These, as you well know, constitute an unfair labour practice, especially as some of the contracts of employment of our clients are for a fixed period of time and will not come to an end until February 2016.

“There is also no gainsaying that your action was based on discrimination against our clients and contrary to the relevant provisions of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right to the effect that every individual shall be entitled to enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the charter without distinction of any kind, such as race, ethnic group, colour, sex language, religion, political or any other opinion, national or social origin, fortune, birth or status.

“We are of the firm view that your actions are arbitrary and very unconscionable. It is unfair to Nigeria in general and our clients in particular that after Virgin Atlantic has made substantial profit from Nigeria to fund the employment of its foreign staff and operations, it will deliberately take actions that will unnecessarily increase the rate of unemployment in Nigeria.”

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