$600,000 Ticket Racketeering Saga: NUATE Accuses Turkish Airlines Of Racism, GM’s Misdeeds

$600,000 Ticket Racketeering Saga: NUATE Accuses Turkish Airlines Of Racism, GM’s Misdeeds

The National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) has faulted Turkish Airline’s  General Manager and accused the airline of racism, denying the media publications where Turkish Airlines claimed that it sacked seven of its Nigerian staff over ticket racketeering and that the workers’ union, NUATE, was picketing the airline in the wrongful defense of the workers’ wrongdoings.

A statement from NUATE says “it is noteworthy that while the Nigerian staff  have been dismissed, the Turkish Sales Manager has been promoted and redeployed, and the ICT of the airline has answered no charges. Talk about racism. What better example than this?”

The statement further reads: “It also claimed that the Union was carrying out the picketing despite an interlocutory injunction obtained against the exercise.

The National Union of Air Transport Employees, NUATE, feels obliged to respond to this awful attempt by the Airline to stand truth on its head. We wish to let the public and stakeholders know that the accusations are blatant and poorly formulated lies. And we wish to tell the truth as follows.

In the first place, the claim that the Airline lost $600,000 is mere phantom. What happened is that sometime in April, 2023, Turkish Airlines’ headquarters issued a sales restriction circular which allowed sales of only two premium classes of tickets as a response to foreign airlines’ difficulty in repatriating their proceeds to home countries due to foreign exchange constraints in Nigeria. But, in a contradicting manner the Airline had an advertised fare on the website which was much lower than the permitted fares. Therefore, intending passengers who accessed such fare, but could not pay online were directed by the global call center to approach the Nigerian offices. As the workers could not attend to the customers due to the sales restriction, the passengers resorted to creating ugly scenes at the sales offices which became riotous at times.

As an image saving measure, the then sales manager asked the sales staff to use the PNR obtained online by the customers to process the tickets if the Airline’s booking system could route the tickets. The sales staff simply complied. As a matter of fact, the then sales manager, a Turkish national, sold these tickets too to confirm that this was the local management’s approved approach to resolving the problem created by the website.

The Airline’s accountants received all due monies from all tickets sold and all sales report were daily submitted to sales manager, signed by him and accounts department and scanned to HQ.  If monies were not fully received, the account would not have balanced, and sales could not have been concluded. Therefore, no monies belonging to Turkish Airlines is missing. And no staff has taken any monies belonging to Turkish Airlines. Importantly, no staff had any pecuniary benefit from the so called internet sales.

It is, therefore, disingenuous for the General Manager to hold the workers to the charge of failure to comply with the sales restrictions when it is clear that shortcomings on the part of the Airlines ICT (on the website) combined with Local Management’s decisions on managing an otherwise ugly situation were responsible for the sales in question.”

According to NUATE, “the airline also claimed in the publication that it held several meetings with NUATE and that the Union fully participated in the disciplinary committee that tried the workers. This is only half truth.

In none of the meetings did the Union agree with the Management’s positions or its findings. Even at the so called disciplinary hearing, the union made it absolutely clear that the committee could only be used as a fact finding means as it was not formed in conformity with the negotiated Conditions of Service. This was because the so called Disciplinary Committee that sat over the matter was nothing but a kangaroo court. The General Manager who issued queries to the staff and decided that their responses were not accepted was the same person who set up the Committee, and was the same person who chaired the Committee. Under the circumstance, it was practically impossible to have fair hearing, nor justice as can be seen from the outcome. At any rate, Union conveyed its position to the Management in writing at the time.

It is on record that the General Manager since his assumption of office in May, 2023 has strangely adopted subterfuge and strong-arm tactics to create a stuffy and toxic atmosphere in the Turkish Airlines workplace. He has employed threat, intimidation and blackmail to induce fear among the workers in order to force the workers to worship him as a demi-god.

As examples, he exhumed so called ADMs (debit notes) against employees that are untenable, thereby slamming huge debits against most of the employees. He calls workers to his office privately to compel them to agree to his terms failing which he threatens sack, police/court actions and image tarnishing. He locked the workers out of their work systems and work stations thereby rendering them redundant as a means of breaking their will and wrecking psychological damage. He has withheld the earned 2023 bonuses of affected workers amounting to millions of Naira as economic warfare against the workers. He casts unsavory glances and uncomplimentary remarks against workers even along corridors in the workplace.

These and other such coercive actions on the part of the General Manager has seriously and negatively impacted on the mental health of all staff of the airline, causing a number of them to cave in to the demand of the General Manager to resign without any benefit whatsoever and forfeiting over ten years of service. A particular pregnant staff nearly lost her pregnancy after her encounter with the terror from the GM and was hospitalized for some time to stabilize.  This level of wickedness to own staff is definitely abnormal.

It is funny to hear Turkish Airlines say that NUATE is disrupting the airline’s operations despite a restraining order of court when the whole world knows that it is the Nigeria Labour Congress, not NUATE, which has called for the picketing exercise.

We wish to use this medium to inform the general public and relevant stakeholders that the real reason for the sack of the seven out of eleven employees under these trump up charges is the continued determination to exterminate the union from the airline which it started in 2020 when it sacked all the members of the airline’s Branch Executive Council of the Union, a matter that it has refused to rectify till date.

Finally, NUATE wishes to state that the high-handedness, plain wickedness and undiluted arrogance of Mr. Lokman Balkan, the General Manager of Turkish Airlines in Lagos makes him totally unfit to hold such important position as to manage people. He has demonstrated total disdain for Nigerians and Nigerian laws – even aviation laws. There is no hiding the fact that Lokman is averse to ethical behaviour, and constitutes a present and definite danger to airline business in Nigeria. In other climes, Lokman would have been arrested and deported by now at the very least.

On our part, however, NUATE has declared Lokman Balkan persona non grata. We shall instruct all aviation workers not to handle him at any Nigerian airport, except at his exit from Nigeria. And if compelled, NUATE shall internationalize his ostracizing from the global aviation family.

At the appropriate time, he will also answer to the defamation of the character of the hapless staff.

In conclusion, NUATE wishes to, on the one hand, assure Mr. Lokman Balkan, GM of Turkish Airlines in Lagos that his mission to exterminate the Union from the Airline will meet with utter failure. If anything, it will be he, not the hard working Nigerian staff, who will leave the airline. On the other hand, NUATE assures the public and aviation stakeholders that our justified position will be pursued in the manner that other aviation businesses will not be negatively impacted, but only to the extent that we are allowed to prosecute our struggle without unlawful hindrances.”


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Albinus Chiedu

Albinus Chiedu is a journalist, aviation media consultant, events management professional, and author. He has practiced journalism since 2000.

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