29 staff at firm based at Norwich Airport face jobs blow

Norwich Airport. Photo : Steve Adams

Norwich Airport. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Archant

Nearly 30 staff based at Norwich Airport face being left with neither a job nor redundancy money next month because of a dispute involving two helicopter firms.

The 20 pilots, five engineers and four operational staff work for DanCopter UK whose contract with Shell to fly personnel to and from North Sea platforms comes to an end on July 16.

The contract is being taken up the following day by CHC Helicopter and Denmark-based DanCopter insists that the staff involved should routinely be transfered to the global helicopter giant under Tupe regulations which protect employees' rights when the service they work for switches to a new employer. However, CHC is insisting that Tupe does not apply - leaving staff facing the prospect of a long legal battle to even claim their redundancy cash entitlement.

Pilot Luke Morgan, 52, is leading the employees' fight for justice as a representative of the Independent Pilots Association (IPA) union and has called on the support of Norwich North MP Chloe Smith.

He said: 'We face the prospect of presenting ourselves for work at CHC on July 17 and being told they won't employ us.

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'This is people's lives, it is a dire situation and some people are talking about having to sell their houses.'

Mr Morgan, a father of two, from Mundesley, said his contract entitled him to five months money in case of redundancy but DanCopter would not pay because it said Tupe applied.

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He said: 'A legal fight could take 12 to 18 months and during that time we will have nothing.'

Phil Flower, general secretary of the IPA, said it would be 'complete nonsense' for CHC to argue that Tupe did not apply because the service it would be operating would be different.

The company would be using the same terminal for passengers and flying the same journeys; the fact it was using a different helicopter was academic as some of their members were already trained to fly both aircraft.

Mr Flower said: 'If a bus contract changed to a different company you would simply train the drivers to operate a different bus.'

He said if there was no resolution the IPA would be starting legal action against both DanCopter and CHC.

A spokesman for CHC Helicopter said: 'Tupe is a legal process that only applies under very specific conditions. It does not apply in these circumstances. As you would expect, commercial arrangements with our clients are confidential so we are unable to provide further detail.'

However, a spokesman for NHV Group, the parent company of DanCopter, said as the service was being continued by another employer, Tupe did apply.

She said they were still looking at ways of mitigating the impact of the loss of the contract.

Ms Smith confirmed she would be meeting with pilots' representatives in her role as constituency MP.

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