Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its affiliate, the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers, NAAPE, grounded activities at Bristow helicopters in Lagos, barricading all entrances into the company premises after breakdown of negotiations over payment of salaries.
NAAPE resolved to completely withdraw all services rendered to Bristow indefinitely from Monday, August 3rd, 2020 over the renewal of pilots and engineers Condition of service, COS, and other issues after further break down of negotiations.
The association had on July 15, 2020 embarked on a three day warning strike at Bristow over the same issues but the action did not produce the expected response from the management.
Following a break down of negotiations, the association wrote a letter informing its members in Bristow about the planned strike. The letter was signed by the Deputy National Secretary, Umoh Ofonime with Ref NS/GS/NAAPE/vol.051/2020 dated July 29, 2020.
NAAPE said some of the issues under contention are the management’s proposal to suspend the COS negotiations and their subversion of established terms of agreement with it.
It said Bristow insists on bench marking salaries of national pilots and engineers to the rate of NGN345/$1 and implementing NGN355/$1- a rate which the association said is not obtainable on any legal foreign exchange window in the world while still paying expatriate foreigners their full remuneration in USD is a contentious issue.
According to NAAPE, it has consistently engaged Bristow management for amelioration of these issues to no avail.
Speaking on the infractions by the company, NAAPE Public Relations Officers, Frank Igwe described the picketing as a last resort saying the union has done all it could to bring their attention to the pains of their members but management remained adamant.
Mr. Igwe listed their demands including restart of the suspended CoS negotiations, fulfilling the promise of employing Nigerians as young cadet and trainee engineers, adjusting national engineers’ progression in tandem with expatriate nationals and global aviation standards among others.
In a statement, Bristow helicopters says they remain willing to engage and dialogue on the issues if NAAPE is ready.
It explains that it stopped the Pilots and Engineers Conditions of Service (COS) negotiations, recognising the recent global outbreak 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 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.
“Bristow has not and will not be in the practice of “jettisoning” legally binding agreements. Each base of operation has its peculiarities. For the particular base in question, Bristow was unable to run a two-pattern shift system due to factors outside of Bristow’s control. An agreement was reached with NAAPE where their members will run extended shifts and in turn get compensated for the extra hours worked. Following extensive reviews with all stakeholders, Bristow has communicated (to NAAPE) its readiness to implement the two-shift system subject to lifting of travel restrictions in the affected base. Bristow has commenced the review and publication of a two-shift roster.
“The accusations of discriminatory policies and victimisation of Nigerian nationals are completely without merit. Since inception in 1969 and to date, the company has trained and employed more National pilots and engineer in the industry, and at very significant costs. In addition, the salaries and benefits payable to the National pilots and engineers continue to be the highest in the market. The majority of the company’s pilots and engineers are Nigerian nationals, yet NAAPE seeks to paint a false narrative of a company with mostly foreign pilots and engineers. This is certainly not the case in Bristow.
“The allegations raised by NAAPE are rejected in their entirety. The company notes that most of the issues being advanced by NAAPE are contrary to the provisions of the 2019 Agreement and the company will request that NAAPE complies with the terms of that agreement. Notwithstanding NAAPE’s position, Bristow remains willing to engage and dialogue on the issues. It requests that NAAPE does the same.
“Bristow is proud to provide a safe environment that promotes equity and places ability above mediocrity ensuring that Bristow’s Nigerian Pilots and Engineers remain among the best paid and best trained.