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Pilots, engineers shut Bristow Helicopter

Members of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers of the Bristow Group on Thursday commenced an indefinite strike over labour issues with the company’s management.

As a consequence, members of the association withdrew their services, while all affiliates of the Labour Centre, United Labour Congress of Nigeria, agreed to withdraw all services rendered by them to the Bristow Group, including the supply of aviation fuel, in solidarity with their colleagues.

The NAAPE President, Abednego Galadima, said the action would be indefinite until all the issues in contention had been resolved.

Galadima stated that NAAPE and Bristow had been in a frosty relationship for over four years now, adding that within the period, not a single issue had been completely resolved.

He stated that among the issues that had remained unresolved were the marginalization of national pilots and engineers and expatriate quota abuse.

According to him, in the Bristow Group, 18 national engineers who obtained their diplomas and licenses over four years ago have remained without type-rating contrary to the subsisting conditions of service.

He said the fate of 13 other engineers, who obtained their diplomas and licenses over one year ago, also remained in limbo, while the engineers ought to be at the level of ‘Engr. 3’ if they had been properly designated as trainee engineers at entry in accordance with the condition of service.

Galadima added that the management of the company also recently fired the training manager, Capt. George Santos, a Nigerian, and replaced him with Capt. Matt Newman, an expatriate, alleging that it was done to satisfy the desire of the company’s promoters in Houston, Texas, United States.

According to him, by the records, the expatriate and national ratios in their bases are Escravos, 20 expatriates to one Nigerian for both pilots and engineers; NAF Base, three expatriates to one Nigerian for pilots and four expatriates to one local for engineers.

He added that in Lagos, the company employed three expatriates to one Nigeria pilot and seven expatriates to one Nigerian engineer, while in Eket, it had two expatriates to one Nigerian for both pilots and engineers.

He said, “This gross disequilibrium in favour of expatriates cannot by any stretch of imagination be given any semblance of compliance with Nigerian’s expatriate policy document, which requires that there shall be two Nigerian understudies for every expatriate position. Therefore, the least position acceptable to the law is the ratio 1:2 in favour of Nigerians.

“Not even several interventions by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, the Federal Ministry of Interior and the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority have succeeded in resolving any of the many issues. We consider this shameful situation to be a sad and sorry tale of failure of industrial relations by both parties.”

Bristow, in reaction, said NAAPE commenced the strike action without due notification to it and in violation of the relevant labour laws.

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The management stated in a statement that the leadership of NAAPE had made a number of inaccurate allegations against it to support the action.

The statement read in part, “For the record, Bristow has acted and will continue to act in accordance with all national laws relating to its operations and with respect to its personnel.”

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