The National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers of Nigeria, an affiliate of the Trade Union Congress, on Thursday morning shut down all Bristow Helicopters’ offices in Port Harcourt to protest against what it described as the company’s discriminatory policies.
Led by NAAPEN’s Isaac Balami in company with national officials and the state Chairman of TUC, Chika Onuegbu, the demonstrators blocked the company’s plan to open operations.
The protesters said that for the past 10 years, Nigerians working as pilots and engineers with Bristow Helicopters have endured untold suffering due to unfair and mindless 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,” Balami said.
“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 the 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 do not care about the welfare of workers. So before it becomes a safety issue they must come and hear us.”
Balami clarified that the agitation was not about pay rise but about fairness.
“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,” he explained.
“We also want pay parity. We have other airlines that operate in this country and they obey the labour laws.
Those airlines operate within the rules and regulations of this country where captains you are treated as a captains.”
He added that captains should be treated fairly whether white or black.
“They should be treated equally. They should not treat us as slaves in this country,” he said.