BALPA highlights growing problems as second heli operator announces pilot job cuts


© Gary Watt, Wikimedia Commons

North Sea Helicopter Pilots, represented by the British Airline Pilots’ Association, are calling on the government to support industry in the North Sea after CHC Scotia announced 50 job losses in Aberdeen. Half of those will be pilots. BALPA is now entering a period of negotiation with the company to save as many jobs as possible and ensure voluntary redundancy is offered where cuts must be made.

This news comes only weeks after Bristow Helicopters told staff it is to cut 130 jobs. It blamed the downturn in the oil price and pressure on the North Sea industry for the loss of up to 66 helicopter pilots and 64 other staff. A spokesman said, “The company has taken numerous measures to reduce costs by working closely with clients to improve operational efficiencies, eliminate discretionary spending, defer capital spend, and offer voluntary redundancy.

“However, we have not been able to reach the level of cost reduction needed and approximately 130 personnel may be affected by redundancy in the UK.

“Bristow is fully committed to ensuring the highest levels of safety standards are maintained throughout this difficult process.”

At the time BALPA called for a jobs summit with the UK and Scottish governments, the oil and gas companies and the key players in the supply chain. BALPA fears that once the skills have left the industry there will be no way back.

In response to the companies’ positions on safety, BALPA said there is a real risk that the pressure on contract prices will have a consequence for safety. BALPA has previously called for a public inquiry along the lines of the Cullen inquiry but this has been refused by both the Scottish and UK Governments.

BALPA General Secretary, Jim McAuslan commented, “This is yet more devastating news, not only for the CHC Scotia community, but for North Sea industry as a whole. The loss of experience is a major threat to the UK economy. It is more important than ever that the governments should commit to helping businesses in the North Sea through this downturn, so skills are not lost when the situation improves.

“The Scottish Minister, Fergus Ewing, has provided support through various agencies to help those displaced by redundancy. But there is no response yet to our call to get all the players in a room together to see how we can stop the industry haemorrhaging talent.

“BALPA is committed to doing all it can to protect pilots, but we have a wider duty to warn that the consequence of these cuts will be felt in the safety culture of the North Sea. Job losses are bad; loss of life is inexcusable and those who let contracts need to be publicly challenged under oath on how far safety really figures in their calculations.”