Union Shuts Bristow Helicopters In Lagos, Rivers | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Union Shuts Bristow Helicopters In Lagos, Rivers

Posted: Apr 1, 2016 at 3:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)



Daniel Abia P/HARCOURT


The National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) on Thursday shut down the operations of Bristow Helicopters at the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos and in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

The union members shut down the airline for several hours in protest over alleged salary disparity between Nigerian pilots and engineers and their foreign counterparts.

In Lagos, it was observed that some of the union members were protesting at the gate of the company, chanting various solidarity songs, barred other workers of the airline from entering the company’s premises for several hours.

The general secretary of the union, Mr Aba Ocheme, later informed aviation correspondents that the strike had been suspended following the intervention of the Ministry of Labour and Productivity.

In Port Harcourt, scores of passengers were stranded as they could not board Bristow Helicopters in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

The staff in all the offices of Bristow Helicopters participated in the protest, which started at about 7a.m, leading to the grounding of all scheduled flights.

The chairman of NAAPE, Isaac Balami, who led the protest, complained of the poor condition of work against Nigerians in the company, owing to the discriminatory policy of the company. He noted that Nigerian pilots and engineers were treated like slaves unlike their white counterparts.

He described the protest as a warning strike aimed at drawing the attention of the company to the unacceptable conditions of work, warning that a much bigger protest awaits the company in future if things remain the same.

“For the past ten years our pilots and engineers working with Bristow Helicopters have suffered untold hardship due to discriminatory and slavish policies of the management of Bristow Helicopters.

“They treat them like they are in a slave camp. You will see a co-pilot who just has 200hrs experience from UK, South Africa and Canada earning far more than their Nigerian counterparts who have been working for years.

“Nigerian pilots and engineers are treated like slaves in their own country. A job that a Nigerian can do they sack him and give it to a foreigner and pay him more. They have been sacking our co-pilots and employing white men.

“We are even more competent than them. Today no helicopter of Bristow will fly until the managing director comes to answer us. We have also discovered that the management does not care about the welfare of workers. So before it becomes a safety issue they must come and hear us.

“This is just a few days warning strike to draw the attention of management to dialogue with us. Bristow operations cover about 60 percent of the oil and gas sector of our economy; they know the implication of shutting down if they refuse to dialogue with us. If they don’t we’ll continue for the next one year.”

He said the condition of work could negatively affect the input of staff who are supposed to be at their best at every given time to prevent air crashes.”

Continuing, he said: “When it happens, both passengers and our members are affected. This is why they must talk to us so that we address all the issues.

“What we have now can put Bristow in a worse situation. What we have are disgruntled engineers and pilots. It is a serious problem. We can’t continue to accept the situation. For the safety of our members and passengers who fly every day we cannot accept it.

“We are not saying we want pay rise. We are not saying we want salary increments but what we are saying is we need valid conditions of service in tandem with the labour laws. We also want pay parity.”

Also speaking on the protest, the chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) in Rivers, Chika Onuegbu, stressed the need for the company to harmonize the conditions of service to agree with standard labour laws.