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THE face-off between British Airways (BA) and the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) has deepened, following the airline's threat to dismiss workers. BA managers had issued warning letters to workers, who attended the July 4 meeting with NUATE, threatening to sack them. The workers had ignored their employers' warning against attending the meeting where issues on enhanced pay were raised.

NUATE, irked by the development, asked the airline to withdraw the warning letters, saying that the action negated workers' terms and conditions of service. `We reiterate our legitimate demand for the immediate withdrawal of the letter,'' NUATE said in a letter to BA last week. The letter asked the airline to be prepared to take responsibility for its action if it failed to do so.

The letter, signed by Mr. Abdulkareem Motajo, for Acting General Secretary of NUATE, stated that the warning letter from BA was against natural justice and fair-hearing. However, in a reply, BA General Manager, West Africa Ian Petrie, who endorsed the letter, said the warning letter was not arbitrary.

`Your union advised its members to disobey a direct instruction and they heeded the advice. Your union should take responsibility for it was necessary to issue the letter and to consider the advice to members more carefully in future," he insisted. Petrie said that the airline decided not to take formal disciplinary action against the workers for their benefit.

A copy of the warning letters titled "Re: leaving the workplace without permission," stated that 0the workers attended the meeting without permission. `You are hereby issued with a formal warning that if similar misconduct re-occurred within six months, further disciplinary action may be taken against you including dismissal," it read.

On another front, both parties were at loggerheads over an 11 per cent cost of living increase approved by the airline for its workers with effect from July 1. NUATE has rejected the increase saying it was unilateral and not negotiated. The airline has invited the union to come up with relevant information on wages in the aviation industry and the Nigerian market for a further wage review. NUATE has proposed July 18 for another meeting with BA, sources told NAN.

 
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