North Sea helicopter pilots consider strike action over job fears

An oil rig in the North Sea.
An oil rig in the North Sea.

A union is to hold a ballot asking North Sea helicopter pilots to consider the possibility of strike action over potential job losses.

More than a third of helicopter pilots operating in the area gathered in Aberdeen for a meeting convened by the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) to hear an update on negotiations.

It comes after Bristow Helicopters and CHC both announced consultations with staff over redundancies in the last month.

Jim McAuslan, Balpa general secretary, said an “indicative ballot” would now be held to ask members if they are willing to take strike action following the meeting attended by around 120 pilots.

“Pilots know that jobs will be lost; but there is a right way and a wrong way of doing it and the helicopter companies need to know that we will not accept their approach,” he said.

“We want decent voluntary terms to attract willing victims, more part time working options to save jobs and objective and transparent redundancy selection criteria, which pay proper regard to flying experience - a critical factor in maintaining safety off shore.”

Mr McAuslan added: “For pilots, safety is our number one priority and there is a fear that these redundancies may lead to corners being cut and pilots flying when their focus is not 100% on task.

“Overall the redundancies are bad for employees, bad for business, bad for the UK economy and bad for safety.”

The ballot will close on Tuesday.

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “It is extremely disappointing to hear that North Sea helicopter pilots are considering strike action.

“We are working collaboratively with the oil and gas industry and trade unions through the Energy Jobs Taskforce.

“One of the key actions of this work is a commitment by operators and unions to establish a regular forum to enable earlier discussion of strategic issues and effective communication to and from the workforce. I hope that this forum can be used to achieve a positive way forward and that strike action can be avoided.”