Hundreds of passengers were yesterday stranded in Port Harcourt as Nigerian pilots, under the aegis of the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers,NAAPEN, an affiliate of the Trade Union Congress, TUC, shut down the offices of Bristow Helicopters, thereby grounding all flights scheduled for the day.
Nigerian Pilot gathered that the action of NAAPEN was based on alleged discrimination and insensitivity of the management of Bristow Helicopters on the plight of Nigerian pilots working for the company.
Speaking to newsmen later, National President of NAAPEN, Isaac Balami, also said their action was a protest over alleged pay disparity between expatriate and Nigerian pilots working in the company.
Balami said: “For the past ten years our pilots and engineers working with Bristow Helicopters have suffered untold hardship due to discriminatory and slavish policies of the management of Bristow
“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.
“Nigerian pilots and engineers are treated like slaves in their own country. A job that a Nigerian can do, they will sack him and give to a foreigner and pay him more.
They have been sacking our co-pilots and employing white men. We are even more competent than they.
“Today no helicopter of Bristow will fly until the Managing Director comes to answer us. We have also discovered that the management does not care about the welfare of workers. So, before it becomes a safety issue they must come and hear us.”
Reacting to the development, the Base Manager, Bristow Helicopters, Port Harcourt, Alex Oshoma, described the picketing of the company by labour unions as illegal, saying the management of Bristow was already in dialogue with NAAPEN before the unfortunate incident.

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