AROUND 200 helicopter pilots working in the North Sea oil and gas industry were due to start a ballot on industrial action over pay this week. The pilots, members of the BALPA union, work for CHC Scotia and fly to North Sea oil and gas platforms from Aberdeen, Norwich, Humberside and Blackpool.
CHC Scotia is one of only two major helicopter operators serving the North Sea industry, and serves platforms owned by major offshore firms including BP, ExxonMobil and TotalFinaElf.
The pilots are demanding moves to close the gap between their pay and that of civil aircraft. Captains currently earn 30 percent less than their civil aircraft counterparts, and first officers 20 percent less.
The company says it will only close the gap over an unacceptably long period, and also wants changes which could worsen pilots' pension arrangements. Any serious action could hit oil and gas production hard, and could win a swift victory.
Union leaders, however, may be looking to use a ballot to squeeze small improvements, rather than an outright victory.