Thursday, March 31, 2016 10:25 am
Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
Passengers of Bristow Helicopters in Port Harcourt,Rivers State were stranded as the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers of Nigeria an affiliate of Trade Union Congress,TUC,as early as 6.30 am stormed Bristow Helicopters and shut down all its offices in Port Harcourt.
The action grounded all flights scheduled for today.
A team led by National President of NAAPEN, Isaac Balami,national officials and the state Chairman of TUC and other officials shut down the operations of Bristow Airlines in Port Harcourt.
According to Balami: “For the past ten years our Pilots and Engineers working in Bristow Helicopters have suffered untold hardships due to discriminatory and slavish policies of the management of Bristow Helicopters. Bristow is like a slave camp.You will see a co-pilot who just had 200hrs experience from UK,South Africa and Canada earning far more than his 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 then employing white men.We are even more competent than them.Today no Helicopter of Bristow Helicopters until the Managing Director come and 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.”
Asked if shutting down the operations of the airline will assuage the feelings of his members, Balami said: “This is just a few days warning strike to draw that 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 implications of shutting down because they refuse to dialogue with us.If they don’t we’ll continue for the next one year.”
On the issue of challenges facing the company and recent crashes by the airline, Balami said: “That is part of the problems we are going through. 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 disgruntled 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. We are saying we need valid conditions of service in tandem with the Labour laws. We also want pay parity. We also have other airlines that operate in this country they obey the labour laws. Those airlines operate within the rules and regulations of this country if you care are captain you are treated as a Captain. What a Captain can do whether no matter the colour of their Skin;White or Black they are treated equally. They should not treat us as slaves in this Country”.
Chika Onuegbu,Rivers State Chairman of TUC added: “We have shut down all the offices of Bristow Helicopters and we have told the management, Staff and Passengers that they cannot go into the company premises.”
Meanwhile, Passengers who are oblivious of the planned shutting of Bristow Helicopters operations today were stranded and confused.