ABOVE: Both parties stress that essential services will be maintained throughout any strike action.

Bristow pilots and tech crew (including search and rescue winch operators and winch paramedics) are to be involved in upcoming strike action, says the British Airline Pilots’ Association, which has been campaigning on behalf of its members. Bristow, however, remains “disappointed” that BALPA is leading its members out on strike action “despite receiving an offer which provides significant enhancements to pay and conditions,” said a spokesperson for the company.

Explaining that BALPA has been negotiating with Bristow Helicopters for “well over a year and have given the company ample opportunities to listen to its own staff,” BALPA General Secretary Amy Leversidge expressed the opinion that Bristow has time and time again failed to present an offer “that is anywhere near acceptable to [the union’s] members”. Bristow describe the offer as one “developed following consultation with staff, detailed market analysis and lengthy talks with the union”.

Having submitted its pay claim in February 2023, BALPA adds it has yet to reach a mutually beneficial agreement ‘despite several meetings to negotiate and ACAS conciliation’. “Despite years of pay freezes and cuts BAPLA members have remained dedicated to their jobs and have supported the company in difficult times,” Leversidge continued, highlighting that “there are tens of thousands of workers offshore at any time working in the oil and gas industry and every single one is able to get to work and home again because of helicopter pilots”. The strike announcement comes as the Bristow Group reports what it terms ‘strong first quarter results’, with total revenues of $337.1 million in the first quarter of 2024.

A potential five weeks’ worth of strike action (comprising varying cohorts of crew) has been scheduled, although BALPA stresses that as ‘[its] argument is with Bristow’s highly paid management and not the public,’ it has structured the strike to maintain ‘life and limb cover’. Speaking to Pilot magazine, Bristow added: “We have detailed and comprehensive mitigation plans in place for all of our customers, including the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and will ensure a level of service remains available to support their emergency response to members of the public in urgent need”.

Bristow concluded: “We are calling on BAPLA to continue working with us, through the ACAS 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”.