National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) with support from United Labor Congress (ULC) early today at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos and other airports nationwide grounded the operations of Bristow and Caverton Helicopters over labor issue.
Through the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), the two helicopter companies were denied aviation fuel, which further crippled their activities.
The unions disclosed that embargo placed on fuel supply to the two companies would continue until their managements assent to their demands.
The workers with several placards with the inscription as: “Nigerians jobs for Nigeria,” "Stop the abuse and violating our rights and privileges,” “We say no to forced labor in Bristow,” and “Racism in Bristow must stop”, among several other protesting placards accused the management of anti-labor practices.
The workers and their union leaders had picketed the two companies as early as 5 am and used their vehicles to barricade entry and exit gates of the companies, vowing that the picketing would continue as long as the management to listen to their voices.
According to NAAPE’s President, Engr. Abednego Galadima, the two companies especially Bristow have continually violated the Condition of Service (CoS) entered into with the pilots and engineers while also awarding the jobs of the country’s citizens to expatriates with humongous financial packages.
According to him, by records, the expatriate/national ratios in their bases are Escravos; 20:1 for both pilots and engineers,NAF Base: 3:1 for pilots and 4:1 for engineers, Lagos: 3:1 for pilots and 7:1 for engineers and at Eket; 2:1 for both pilots and engineers.
He explained that in order to continually engage expatriates, Bristow Group, refused to train Nigerian pilots and engineers while 50 expatriates were recently engaged by the company despite the availability of Nigerians to efficiently carry out the jobs.
He added: “In the Bristow Group, 18 Nigerian engineers who obtained their Diplomas and Licenses over four years ago have remained without type rating, contrary to the subsisting Conditions of Service. Similarly, the fate of 13 other engineers who obtained their Diplomas and Licenses over one year ago remains in limbo. These engineers ought to, by now, be at the level of Engr. 3 if they had been properly designated as Trainee Engineers at entry in accordance with the CoS."
“The management has, however, refused to designate and type rate these engineers appropriately just to disable them from growing their career. This is a disingenuous way for the management to continue to hire expatriates under the guise of the absence of local expertise. Also, the management continues to deny qualified national engineers promotion into senior positions while continually training expatriates to hold same positions in perpetuity."
“In the same vein, 10 national pilots who obtained their flying licenses from Florida over four years ago also remain in limbo. The management has refused, up till now, to designate them as First Officers. If they did, pilots could have become Senior First Officers by now. Instead, the management has applied for over 50 expatriate pilots to fill the same position, which smacks of racism.”
Also, the Chairman, United Labour Congress (ULC), Lagos Chapter and also a union leader the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Mr. Tokunbo Korodo, said the union had cut aviation fuel supply to the two helicopter companies.
He vowed that until the issues raised by the unions were addressed, unions would continue to deny the two helicopter companies access to aviation fuel, stressing that it was part of the strategies to make the companies comply.
He added: "Before we took this action, we had written series of letters to the two managements to do the needful on workers, but refused to listen to us and called our bluff. We will continue to picket airlines and helicopters that violate the rights of workers.”
Comrade Segun Esan, the General Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Railway Workers vowed that the unions would continue to picket the two helicopter companies until their management reversed the “unpleasant working conditions of Nigerians working” with them.