Helicopter pilots angry over ‘ban’ from jobs in Norwich

Andrew Goodchild

Andrew Goodchild - Credit: Archant

Pilots made redundant by CHC when it closed Great Yarmouth's North Denes heliport say they have been 'banned' from applying for positions at the company's new Norwich base.

The 16 pilots, many with long company service, were made redundant at the end of March just days before the global helicopter firm announced it was opening a base at Norwich Airport to fulfil a new Shell contract.

They were stunned to be told CHC would not be automatically taking them back on - arguing that their three-month notice period meant they were still technically employed - and disappointed when they applied for the new jobs and were turned down.

Their emotion has since turned to anger after receiving letters saying they cannot not re-apply for CHC jobs for two years, effectively banning them from contract positions currently being advertised by the company at Norwich Airport.

Andrew Goodchild, one of eight pilots instructing a Norwich barrister to launch a breach of contract action, said: 'We cannot believe it. Why would they do this to us?

You may also want to watch:

'We all have exemplary records of employment working for the company between 10 and 17 years.'

He said CHC needed at least 10 pilots to fulfil the Shell contract, taken over last month fron DanCopter, and the company had since secured two other contracts flying out of Norwich.

Most Read

Adding insult to injury was their understanding that CHC had employed some overseas pilots at Norwich - shunning the professionals on their doorstep.

Mr Goodchild, 48, of Russell Avenue, Sprowston, said some of his former colleagues had managed to secure new positions, but they wanted to work closer to home.

The father of four said: 'Norwich MP Clive Lewis has taken up our cause and written to the president of CHC asking him to intervene.'

Richard Toomer, a spokesman for their union, British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), said: 'In our view CHC acted unfairly in dismissing a number of pilots from their former base at North Denes when they were planning to open a new base at Norwich very shortly afterwards. We feel that is an underhanded way to treat loyal employees.

'Balpa has supported pilots through this process and we are currently supporting several who are taking CHC to employment tribunal for unfair dismissal and a number of other employment matters.'

Mr Lewis MP said: 'Whether or not the legal process has been followed is a matter for the courts to decide, but the way these workers have been treated concerns me.

'Here in Norwich we've got highly skilled and experienced pilots desperate to return to work, yet I understand that there are vacancies still waiting to be filled. That's why I've written to the president of CHC asking him to intervene, so that my constituents can get back to work.'

A CHC spokesman said: 'Earlier this year, a number of contracts that were delivered by CHC from North Denes concluded. As the base was no longer commercially viable, we had to take the decision to close that location. We made sure that all of our employees participated in a thorough consultation in accordance with the required legal process. Unfortunately we can't comment further due to confidentiality requirements.'

About 20 DanCopter pilots, who lost their jobs when CHC took over Shell's North Sea contract out of Norwich, have also launched legal action, through their union, the Independent Pilots Association.

They are claiming unfair dismissal and argue that under TUPE regulations, which protect employees' rights when the service they work for switches to a new employer, they should have been taken on by CHC.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter