Bristow sacks 100 pilots and engineers over strike

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As the called by the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) over labour and related matters at Bristow Helicopters enters its second day, the management of the airline has announced the sack of 100 indigenous and expatriate pilots in its employ.

The indefinite strike which began yesterday led to the grounding of the airline’s operations.

NAAPE had accused the airline of alleged discriminatory policies and consistent victimisation of its Nigerian workers.

It also accused the airline of bench-marking salaries of indigenous pilots and engineers to an obsolete rate of N345/$1, its recent insistence on the proposal to implement N355/$1, saying such a rate is not obtainable on any leg of foreign exchange window in the world while still paying expatiate staff their full remuneration in United States dollar.

Other issues raised are failure of the airline to train qualified persons in Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) and failure to fully reimburse individuals who successfully completed their ATPL through self-sponsorship, disproportionate matching and capped reimbursement cash figures for self-sponsored pilots on ATPL with an employment bond of N30 million, which NAAPE described as unethical and sharp practice.

Although the airline refuted the allegations and accused NAAPE of abandoning “negotiations to embark on a strike action which is both illegal and unwarranted,” Bristow said in a statement today that it “has taken the very difficult decision to release over 100 pilots and engineers (both national and expatriates) over the next couple of weeks.”

The helicopter company hinged the decision on the COVID-19 virus which “has severely impacted all sectors in the aviation industry including our market, which primarily serves the Nigerian oil and gas sector.” 

It also stated that “the ongoing downturn in the global oil and gas market continues to influence and determine the demand for our services” stressing that “the combined effects of these ‘arisings’ has resulted in very significant reductions to our business particularly a reduction in the number of contracted aircraft in Nigeria.”

However, a staff of the company who spoke to NewsGazette on the condition of anonymity said the sack has nothing to do with the effects of the coronavirus disease adding that the issues in contention predate the pandemic.

“Bristow management is using the coronavirus pandemic as a convenient excuse to fire the pilots and engineers who form the nucleus of NAAPE,” he said.

He also disputed the inclusion of expatriates among the sacked personnel saying “Bristow is only trying to make the decision look as if it cuts across indigenous and expatriate employees.”

The statement

The spread of the Covid-19 virus has severely impacted all sectors in the aviation industry including our market, which primarily serves the Nigerian oil and gas sector.  In addition, the ongoing downturn in the global oil and gas market continues to influence and determine the demand for our services.  The combined effects of these ‘arisings’ has resulted in very significant reductions to our business particularly a reduction in the number of contracted aircraft in Nigeria. As a result, the company must now restructure all aspects of its business model (both rotary and fixed wing), including an extensive review of its operations and we continue to drive efficiencies, but with zero compromise to safety and our core values.

“One of these measures includes the right sizing of the business to ensure that the company has the optimal level of personnel to continue the safe delivery of its services to its clients, whilst allowing the appropriate capacity for future growth.  Accordingly, and with much regret, the company has taken the very difficult decision to release over 100 pilots and engineers (both National and Expatriates) over the next couple of weeks.

“This decision has not been made lightly, but having considered the state of the business and the very serious constraints caused by the spread of the Covid-19 disease and the downturn in the oil and gas market, the company must now take this painful, but decisive step to ensure the continuity of its business and delivery of essential services to its clients. 

“In compliance with the relevant labor and local content laws and also best practices; the company has engaged the leadership of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) to negotiate a fair and equitable redundancy compensation for the affected individuals.  In compliance with the terms of employment, the affected individuals will be paid 3 months’ salary (excluding applicable deductions) following their exit from the company.  The redundancy packages will be paid to them as soon as an agreement has been reached with NAAPE.  

 “The company remains focused on safety of its employees and clients as well as the delivery of an efficient and value driven service.”

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