Helicopter firm cuts deepen North Sea crisis

FURTHER evidence of the severe North Sea energy production downturn came yesterday with up to 130 job losses being announced by one of the main helicopter operators, with another reviewing its staffing.

Bristow flies offshore workers between platforms and the mainland. Picture: TSPL

Bristow Helicopters blamed the threatened redundancies on being unable to make sufficient savings from other costs.

The news prompted the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) to call for a government-led summit on North Sea jobs.

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Balpa said up to 66 pilots and 64 other staff were likely to lose their jobs at Bristow.

A spokeswoman for the operator, which employs nearly 2,000 people, said: “Our operations in the UK continue to be impacted due to the ongoing reduction of oil and gas activity in the North Sea, as our clients make permanent changes to their cost structure and operational practices.

“The company has taken numerous measures to reduce costs by working closely with clients to improve operational efficiencies, eliminate discretionary spending, defer capital spend, and offer voluntary redundancy.

“These are difficult yet necessary proposals as we continue to align our cost structure and capacity to that of our clients in this rapidly changing, highly competitive helicopter transportation market.

CHC, another of the three main helicopter operators, said it was “keeping resourcing requirements under review”, while the third, Bond, declined to comment.

A CHC spokeswoman said: “We are continuing to work closely with our customers during this challenging period to make sure we respond to their changing needs.

“As you would expect, we are keeping our resourcing requirements under review given the current market conditions.”

The cuts would be the latest of hundreds of North Sea jobs to be shed this year, with Shell planning to reduce its numbers by at least 250.

Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan said: “This is devastating news for the Bristow community and we are doing everything we can to support pilots who are affected.

“This announcement reflects the collapse in the oil price and its impact on North Sea industry. Pilots want to see that industry thrive again and ensure when it does, we have the skilled pilots and other workers available.

“We must now make certain that businesses all the way down the supply chain are not squeezed by the big oil and gas companies.

“The [UK] Government needs to nurse the industry through this downturn so skills are not lost when the situation improves.

“Balpa is calling for a jobs summit with the Treasury, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Scottish Government and the Department for Transport to take stock of the situation.

“This loss of experience is a major threat to the UK industry as well as a personal catastrophe for the individuals concerned.”

Scottish Labour energy spokesman Lewis Macdonald said: “The announcement is an indication of the severe problems still facing the oil and gas industry in Scotland.

“It is essential those who are facing redundancy receive support from government at every level, and the skills base in the oil support sector in the north east is protected.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has already held large-scale jobs events for the offshore industry in Aberdeen, attracting more than 1,700 people who received advice and practical support, job opportunities, start up support, further education and up-skilling opportunities. All individuals attending these events have been offered one-to-one follow up.”