Bristow Helicopters announces plan to sack over 100 pilots, engineers

The management of Bristow Helicopters has announced that it will sack over 100 pilots and engineers (both National and Expatriates) over the next couple of weeks.

This development may not be unconnected with the lingering feud between the National Union of Aircraft Pilot and Engineers, NAAPE and the management of the Helicopter company over disparity in pay package of Nigerian and expatriates pilots and engineer.

Bristow Helicopters in a statement signed by its management stated that: “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”.
 
The company explained that the spread of the Covid-19 virus has severely impacted all sectors in the aviation industry including its 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 & 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, ” the company said.
 
Bristow emphasised that one of the 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. 

The airline stated further that: “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 labour 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 said it remains focused on safety of its employees and clients as well as the delivery of an efficient and value driven service.

Only yesterday, the management of the airline stated that it has noted NAAPEs continued refusal to call off the illegal industrial action and come to the negotiating table.

The company said NAAPE raised a number of issues as matters of contention but it appears that their main issue of dispute is the remuneration paid to the National pilots and engineers (currently the highest paid Rotary pilots & engineers in Nigeria).

NAAPE alleged that Bristow is discriminatory against the National pilots and engineers in favour of the expatriate staff. 

Bristow explained that “this is very much false.  Over the years, the number of expatriate staff have reduced significantly in favour of National pilots and engineers in line with our local content plan.  Bristow is very proud of the increasing number of Nationals in the business and will continue (as it has always done) to train and sponsor National pilots and engineers. 
For emphasis, with respect to remuneration, in 2019, NAAPE and Bristow reached an agreement on the remuneration of national pilots and engineers. 
” In essence, the agreement provided that the salaries will be paid at an exchange rate of ₦345 (as against the then Central Bank rate of ₦306) but with an adjustment to the agreed rate if the NAFEX (which was ₦362.33 as at the date of the agreement) rate moves either way by 20per cent.  As at today’s date, the NAFEX rate has not moved by 20% therefore an adjustment to the agreed rate is not justified”. 

Bristow continued in their statement that NAAPE is now demanding that 100per cent of the salaries of the National pilots and engineers should be paid in US$ Dollars, stressing that this is contrary to the terms of the agreement with NAAPE on remuneration. 

“Rather than comply with the legally binding agreement, this is the basis of NAAPEs allegations that Bristow is discriminating against its National staff.  This, in our view, is an attempt by NAAPE to avoid compliance with the legally binding agreement between the parties. 
We have been advised that the strike action by NAAPE is ILLEGAL as it has not followed the legal process and procedures.  Therefore, the company is at liberty to take appropriate legal action in response to this strike.  This includes the application of “no work, no pay” under the provisions of the Labour law.  In addition, participation in an illegal strike action amounts to a breach of the company’s employment terms and the company will take appropriate steps in this regard,” the company explained.

Bristow concluded their statement that it remains willing to continue the process of dialogue and engagement with NAAPE and extended an invitation to NAAPE to resume discussions on the issues, adding that their expectation is for NAAPE to withdraw the strike and resume dialogue.

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