The management of Bristow Helicopter on Monday reacted to the strike declared by the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE), saying the strike is “illegal and unwarranted.”
It also said contrary to the assertion by the union “that all negotiations have broken down, the company remains willing and prepared to continue dialogue with NAAPE.”
- Bristow pilots, engineers to begin strike
- Union’s action violates relevant labour laws, says Bristow
Daily Trust reports that NAAPE had directed pilots and engineers working with Bristow to withdraw their services with effect from midnight on Monday over issues bothering on conditions of service in the organization.
The workers are angry over what they called “discriminatory policies and consistent victimization of Nigerians working for the carrier.”
They also rejected the bench-marking salaries of indigenous pilots and engineers N345/$1, the rate which they described as “obsolete.”
Other issues raised by the union include 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 they described as unethical and sharp practice.
But reacting to the impending strike, Bristow dismissed the union’s allegations as entirely false, saying the proposed strike is contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian labour laws and practices.
It explained that most of the issues under contention arise out of an agreement executed in 2019 between Bristow and NAAPE (“the 2019 Agreement”).
Bristow also said it proposed to put a ‘pause’ on the Pilots and Engineers Conditions of Service (COS) negotiations “recognizing the recent global outbreak of COVID-19, the plummeting of global oil prices and the mandatory 22% OPEC cuts to Nigeria’s crude oil production – All which have had a significant impact on our business and capacity utilization in Nigeria.”
“It is important to state that notwithstanding the economic challenges in the aviation industry since the spread of Covid-19 Bristow pilots and engineers have remained the best paid in their industry and have not suffered any reduction or change in their salaries, at a time when operations have reduced by 50%,” the company said.
- 2019 agreement
It explained further that in the 2019 Agreement the parties agreed the relevant exchange rate at which the salaries of Bristow Pilots and Engineers would be calculated.
In the agreement, both parties agreed on NGN345/$1 (at a time when the CBN exchange rate was NGN306/$1) with a provision for adjustment if the NAFEX rate moves in either direction by 20% or more,” it said.
According to the statement, the NAFEX rate has not reached the agreed threshold. It stated that Bristow has fully complied with the provisions of the agreement with NAAPE, noting that, “By its demand, NAAPE is seeking to act contrary to the legally binding agreement it signed voluntarily.”
It stated further: “In the signed 2019 agreement, Bristow committed to full sponsorship of up to four senior first officers SFOs within a financial year for their ATPL course, dependent upon operational requirements and the prevailing market realities.
“Three individuals were identified, and the process of training commenced. Unfortunately, and through no fault of Bristow, the selected individuals were unable to obtain the necessary travel and study visas.
“Furthermore, the proposed school identified was unable to obtain the required accreditation from the US Government for them to be used as a fully licensed training organization.
“Bristow has documents to prove that the claim of non-reimbursement of funds for self-sponsored pilots is false as two senior first officers SFOs (who have now been promoted to Captains) have been reimbursed fully for the cost of their ATPL courses.
- Denies sharp practice accusation
“Bristow rejects the accusation of any sharp practice regarding bonding of Pilots. The pegged ATPL reimbursement cost is in line with the costs presented to the company by individuals seeking reimbursement.
“Bristow complies with all relevant laws and procedures and the exit of any employees will be in accordance with such laws and procedures.
“The implementation of the engineering matrix is in line with the 2019 Agreement. NAAPE is now demanding that Bristow ‘shorten’ the current engineering matrix from fifteen (15) years to ten (10) years, which is contrary to the 2019 Agreement.
“Given the far-reaching implications this has for experience and safety levels within our operations, we have offered to bring in independent subject matter experts to provide unbiased and professional advice regarding NAAPE’s demands.
“NAAPE is yet to accept this proposal. Safety underpins everything Bristow does and under no circumstances shall Bristow compromise its standards or the safety of its operations.”