NIGERIA (UPDATE): Passengers Stranded As Union Grounds Bristow Helicopters

Passengers scheduled to fly with Bristow Helicopters yesterday were stranded as a result of the indefinite strike embarked by the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE).

The union was protesting alleged discriminatory policies against Nigerian employees by the company.
A visit to the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos yesterday showed that some passengers and expatriates were barred from entering the company’s facility.

But a statement signed by Bristow explained that contrary to NAAPE’s assertion that all negotiations have broken down, it remained willing and prepared to continue dialogue with the union.

The airline, however, alleged that NAAPE has elected to abandon negotiations to embark on a strike, which it described as illegal and unwarranted.

Members of NAAPE said the strike would continue until Bristow agreed to review some of its discriminatory policies against Nigerian workers.

Public Relations Officer of NAAPE, Mr. Francis Igwe, explained some of the grievances of the union to include Bristow’s proposal to suspend the conditions of service, negotiations and their deliberate subversions of established terms of the agreement with NAAPE, insistence on benchmarking salaries of national pilots and engineers to an obsolete rate of N345/$1 coupled with the recent insistence on their proposal to implement N355/$1, a rate which is not obtainable on any foreign exchange windows in the world while still paying to expatriate foreigners their full remuneration in dollars.

Others, Igwe said, included failure to train qualified persons in Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) and failure to fully reimburse individuals who had 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.

Vice President of NAAPE, Mr. Dukas Yakubu, said after several attempts to reach an agreement with Bristow, the company had failed to review some of its obnoxious policies against its indigenous workers.

However, the company said in a statement: “Bristow proposed to put a ‘pause’ on the pilots and engineers’ Conditions of Service (COS) negotiations, recognising the recent global outbreak of COVID-19, the plummeting of global oil prices and the mandatory 22 per cent OPEC cuts to Nigeria’s crude oil production – all which have had a significant impact on our business and capacity utilisation 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 per cent.

“In the 2019 agreement, the parties agreed on 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 per cent or more. Currently, the NAFEX rate has not reached the agreed threshold. Bristow has fully complied with the provisions of the agreement with NAAPE. By its demand, NAAPE is seeking to act contrary to the legally binding agreement it signed voluntarily.”

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