New Iberia, La. – More than 150 helicopter pilots and mechanics represented by the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Locals 107 and 407 at Bristow Helicopters are shocked by the company’s unilateral decision, announced Wednesday afternoon, to close two Louisiana facilities in both New Iberia and Galliano, resulting in the loss of more than 350 good-paying, family-sustaining jobs.
In June, Bristow completed a merger with Era Group that brought together two workforces, the OPEIU pilots and mechanics at Bristow and nonunion pilots and mechanics at Era. OPEIU has initiated a process with the National Mediation Board for the union to represent a joint workforce of Era and Bristow pilots and mechanics.
“Rather than continue the plan to combine workforces for a stronger company, Bristow has regrettably decided to take a U-turn and close two facilities,” said Ken Bruner, president of OPEIU Local 107 pilots. “This short-sighted decision jeopardizes our communities’ well-being at a critical time, as the Covid-19 pandemic has caused enormous job losses already and threatens to uproot sorely needed funding for our children’s schools, our communities’ infrastructure and, importantly, our efforts to combat the pandemic.
“The company, and the more than 350 individuals who will be impacted by this decision, are an essential part of our local economy, and the impact of the closings will ripple throughout the region. Our communities will suffer needlessly from a steep decline in the tax revenues we need to maintain now more than ever,” he added.
The company claims the decision to shutter the two facilities hinges on falling demand for the facilities’ services and lower operational efficiencies as a result.
“Bristow employees have long advocated for improvements that would leave our Louisiana facilities more profitable, more efficient and better positioned to succeed in a rapidly changing market,” said George Evans, president of OPEIU Local 407 mechanics. “We are calling on the company we have helped build to take a step back and realize what these jobs and tax revenues mean to our communities and to the employees who have helped make Bristow a successful company.
“We can’t let our communities and our families bear the brunt of a decision based on a false choice. We can and hope to work alongside Bristow management to ensure the company remains profitable and that these good-paying jobs remain where they belong,” Evans said. "Perhaps most galling, Bristow has provided golden parachutes for company executives while handing out these pink slips to its employees."