PHI sent letters to several hundred of its striking helicopter pilots essentially firing them Thursday, one day after they started picketing.
The pilots went on strike early Wednesday morning.
The Lafayette, La., based company company, which flies rig workers off shore and operates five air ambulances in the Houston area, would not comment Thursday afternoon.
Allan Duquette, a PHI pilot for 30 years, told 11 News he received his severance notice Thursday morning in a letter from FedEx which said, “Because you are engaging in a strike activity, you are being permanently replaced.” The letter said final paychecks would be mailed within three business days.
Duquette was one of a dozen pilots who picketed outside Galveston’s Scholes Field on Wednesday. Nationwide, the pilots union said more than 200 pilots went on strike early Wednesday morning.
Pilots said they have not had a contract in more than two-and-a-half years. Among other things, pilots want to work less overtime and request a pay raise.
“Guys need time off to be with their families. Having a vacation and then not being able to take it and then lose it. That is an issue that needs to be addressed,” Duquette told 11 News Wednesday.
PHI downplayed the strike. A statement released Wednesday it said the company had “implemented an industry-leading compensation package for its pilots which is above its main competitors.”
Letter to Allan Duquette
PHI’s statement also minimized the work stoppage saying that only “approximately 25 percent of the company’s pilot workforce participated in this action.”
Striking pilots said the number is much higher.
“Their Gulf of Mexico operations are shut down,” said Bill Lurye, attorney for Local 108, which represents the pilots. He said the union notified the company early this morning “that it’s in violation of the law,” by attempting to permanently replace the pilots.
Lurye said the union is currently considering its legal options.
PHI has a few helicopters flying during this work stoppage. They’re piloted by managers and flight instructors.
Of its five air ambulances in the Greater Houston area, only two are flying Thursday. One in La Porte. A second in Conroe.
PHI’s medical helicopter in Richmond is reportedly tied down on a secondary helipad outside Oakbend Medical Center. Its crew is gone.
LifeFlight is expected to pick up any additional emergencies.
Other offshore helicopters and crew boats are expected to ferry rig and platform workers back and forth to the Gulf of Mexico.
Energy experts doubt this work stoppage will impact petroleum prices.