Disgruntled Bristow helicopter crews and their union is being asked to reconsider strike action.
It comes after they have “overwhelmingly voted in favour of industrial action,” the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) confirmed.
Of the BALPA members that took part in the vote – numbers of which were not disclosed – 96.31% voted in favour of industrial action against the flight operator.
The workers, who include pilots, technical crew, winch paramedics and winch operators, are pursuing the action in a dispute over pay.
Offshore Energies UK has raised concerns over the impending strike action saying it’s “not helpful” and doesn’t offer a “solution” for the sector.
Bristow strike action ‘not helpful’
Bristow has bases in Sumburgh and Norwich as well as Aberdeen and provides search and rescue (SAR) operations for the coastguard in addition to operating heli transport flights for offshore workers.
Alix Thom, Offshore Energies UK workforce engagement and skills manager, said: “We are aware of this ballot and would encourage all parties to work together to find constructive ways to address workforce concerns.
“Workers in all sectors across the UK continue to feel the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, however industrial action does not offer a solution nor is it helpful for our sector, which is doing all it can to attract the investment essential to protect jobs and to ensure national energy security.”
Bristow ‘failed to listen’
The helicopter operator has a contract until December 2026 to provide SAR operations for His Majesty’s Coastguard. Around 360 people are employed via this contract, according to Bristow’s website, and are mobilised from 10 SAR helicopter bases across the UK.
It is unclear how any potential strike action will impact Bristow’s SAR operations, however it’s understood those who work in this service are also involved in the dispute.
BALPA general secretary Amy Leversidge said: “This ballot is a clear indication of the strength of feeling amongst our members.
“Despite months of negotiation Bristow’s management has failed to listen to employees and offer a fair and reasonable pay deal.”
Members reportedly arrived in force to vote for the strike action, with BALPA reporting a 92.74% turnout.
Ms Leversidge added: “They provide vital search and rescue services and transport workers to the oil and gas rigs in the North Sea.
“For years, our members have remained loyal to Bristow enduring pay freezes and cuts while they were in difficult times.
“It is unreasonable for Bristow to expect their helicopter pilots and technical crews to continue with austerity pay at a time when the company is booming and it is BALPA members who are at the heart of that success.”
‘A resolute message to Bristow’
The general secretary concluded: “Industrial action is always a last resort and none of our members want to be in this position but clearly enough is enough.
“Our ballot result today sends a resolute message to Bristow that their pay offer must be improved.
“We strongly urge Bristow to listen to what their workers are telling them loud and clear and get back to the bargaining table with BALPA and give our members a fair and reasonable pay offer.”
‘Offer is highly competitive’
A Bristow Helicopters spokesman told Press & Journal sister website Energy Voice: “We are extremely disappointed by the outcome of this ballot and that, despite Bristow tabling an improved offer in a bid to avoid strike action, staff were not given an opportunity to vote on that offer before being balloted to participate in strike action.
“We believe our latest offer is highly competitive and remain committed to working collaboratively with BALPA to arrive at a fair and sustainable agreement that recognises the hard work and commitment of our team and to avoid unnecessary strike action.”