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Emergency services / Coastguard working on contingency plans after Bristow helicopter crews vote for industrial action

THE COASTGUARD says it is developing contingency plans to minimise the risk to search and rescue services after Bristow helicopter crews voted to take industrial action.

Ballot results released earlier this week showed that members of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) working with Bristow overwhelmingly backed the prospect of action in a dispute over pay, with 96 per cent voting in favour.

Bristow holds the contract for coastguard search and rescue services in northern Scotland, and locally it has a base in Sumburgh.

The Sumburgh-based coastguard helicopter provides vital role in saving lives at sea and also providing airlifts to hospital.

In a statement released after the vote results were announced, a Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesperson told Shetland News: “HM Coastguard is developing contingency plans to minimise the risk associated with a potential reduction in the helicopter search and rescue service.

“It would be inappropriate to comment on the dispute between Bristow and BALPA while discussions remain ongoing.

“The provision of other search and rescue assets remains unaffected.”

HM Coastguard will work with Bristow Helicopters to minimise the risk associated with the potential reduction in service.

BALPA general secretary Amy Leversidge had said “despite months of negotiation Bristow’s management has failed to listen to employees and offer a fair and reasonable pay deal”.

She said some of its members are pilots and technical crew, such as winch paramedics and winch operators, who work in tough conditions.

Leversidge added that industrial action is “always a last resort, and none of our members want to be in this position – but clearly enough is enough”.

A spokesperson for Bristow Helicopters previously said: “We are extremely disappointed by the outcome of this ballot and that, despite Bristow tabling an improved offer in a bid to avoid strike action, staff were not given an opportunity to vote on that offer before being balloted to participate in strike action.

“We believe our latest offer is highly competitive and remain committed to working collaboratively with BALPA to arrive at a fair and sustainable agreement that recognises the hard work and commitment of our team and to avoid unnecessary strike action.”

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