The National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) wednesday shut down the operations of Caverton Helicopters as part of the one-day warning strike to protest against the alleged disparity in salaries between expatriates and Nigerian pilots and engineers.

NAAPE said the strike would affect the company’s offices in Shell, NAF Base in Port Harcourt, Warri and Lagos.

The warning strike was enforced by NAAPE members from 3:00 a.m. wednesday.
When THISDAY contacted the spokesman of the company, he said Caverton did not have an official statement on the matter, however, THISDAY gathered from source in the company that the economic downturn and low activities in oil and gas operations have drastically affected all oil exploration and production support companies, adding that it is very difficult to even pay anyone in dollars, considering the high exchange rate.

“Instead of sacking workers because of the economic downturn, workers were persuaded to accept lower remuneration until the economy improves. This is what the labour unions do not want to understand; that we are facing economic downturn now and things would not be as it used to be,” a source told THISDAY.

NAAPE however said the warning strike was equally to express the union’s discomfort over the refusal by the helicopter company to commit to pay remunerations being converted from dollars to naira at prevailing inter-bank rate as previously agreed between the management of the rotary wing and NAAPE.

Speaking to Aviation journalists at the Murtala Muhammed Airport (MMA), Lagos, the General Secretary of NAAPE, Ocheme Aba, stated that it was worrisome that Caverton Helicopters was discriminating between expatriate and Nigeria pilots and engineers in the payment of salaries.
He further stated that while the salaries of expatriates in the company had been paid up to date and promptly, the Nigerian pilots and engineers are still being owed their salaries.

The general secretary also hinted that the one-day warning, which would see the activities of the rotary wing giant grounded, was to protest the refusal of the company to pay salaries every month or before the 26 of the month as contained in the Condition of Service as against the current practice, where salaries runs into months in arrears.

He posited that despite several efforts made by NAAPE to address the several labour issues that have severed the relationship between the union and the management of the company, Caverton has refused to resolve these matters.

The union, he stated, would not allow Caverton Helicopters to get away with this, hence the warning strike.

NAAPE also accused Caverton Helicopters of deducting tax and from the workers’ salaries without remitting same to the appropriate authorities.
According to him, “having exhausted all avenues of seeking redress without success, we have come to the painful conclusion that the management of Caverton has taken our patience and goodwill for granted.

“Accordingly, all pilots and engineers in Caverton are hereby directed by the National Executive Council of NAAPE to withdraw all services as from midnight of today (yesterday) July 12 to midnight of tomorrow (today) July 13, as a warning to Caverton to do the needful or face more drastic actions.”