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Bristow’s UK pilots & tech crews begin strike

By Oliver Johnson | May 7, 2024

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 27 seconds.

Bristow’s UK-based pilots and tech crews have begun three days of strikes after claiming management at the company failed to offer “a fair and reasonable” pay deal.

The two parties have been in dispute for over a year, with flight crews calling for a pay rise in line with the rate of inflation and enhanced benefits.

The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) said Bristow pilots and tech crews have accepted below-inflation pay settlements and endured pay freezes for the past few years while the company experienced financial difficulties.

With the offshore market rebound helping to boost revenues at Bristow, the union said it was time to “repay the flight crews’ loyalty” by “restoring pay levels” to make them comparable to other helicopter operators.

“These loyal pilots and technical crew operate in some of the most treacherous and challenging conditions transporting workers to the oil and gas rigs in the North Sea and providing vital search-and-rescue services,” said Amy Leversidge, BALPA general secretary.

“Despite years of pay freezes and cuts BALPA members have remained dedicated to their jobs and have supported the company in difficult times.

“Now the company is doing well and reporting profits, our members are simply asking for a fair pay deal that demonstrates the company values them and repays some of the loyalty shown and the contribution pilots and technical crews have made to the company’s success.

Bristow is approaching the end of its first 10-year contract to provide search-and-rescue (SAR) services for the U.K. on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

In July 2022, it was announced as the winner of the follow-up £1.6 billion UKSAR2G program, with the transition to that contract beginning later this year.

BALPA said the current strike has been structured to enable “life and limb cover” for those SAR services.

In a statement issued following the strike announcement, Bristow said it has “detailed and comprehensive” mitigation plans in place for all its customers, including the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

A previous strike, planned for earlier this year, was postponed as a mark of respect for the Bristow employees who died during a SAR training mission in Norway in February. Further industrial action was called off at the last minute after Bristow put forward an improved offer, with the two sides pursuing a negotiated settlement. However, BALPA members ultimately rejected Bristow’s proposal, with an emphatic 96 percent voting to strike.

We are disappointed that BALPA is leading their members out on strike action, despite receiving an offer which provides significant enhancements to pay and conditions,” Bristow said in its statement.

“The offer was developed following consultation with staff, detailed market analysis and lengthy talks with the union.

“We are calling on BALPA to continue working with us, through the ACAS [Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service] process, towards a realistic and sustainable solution. Bristow will continue to focus all efforts on providing safe and critical services to customers impacted by the actions of BALPA.”

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