Bristow Ireland Limited, a subsidiary of Bristow Group, a leading global provider of innovative and sustainable vertical flight solutions, and Unite the Union have reached an agreement in preparation for the transition to the next Irish Coast Guard Search & Rescue (SAR) Aviation Contract.

The new framework agreement between Bristow and Unite will ensure a smooth transition of specialist helicopter engineers to Bristow. It captures agreed terms and conditions of employment, giving engineers a clear view of their employment with Bristow while also ensuring a process for dispute resolution.

The agreement has been accepted by the group of specialist helicopter engineers represented by Unite. They will start to transition from the current operator to Bristow this autumn, ensuring Bristow remains poised to deliver the next generation of SAR operations in Ireland later this year.

Bristow HR Director, Emma Lawson, who has been spearheading the development of the framework with Unite, said: “This framework agreement is a key milestone in the transition to the next generation of Irish SAR operations. These skilled engineers are joining Bristow knowing they have the support of the Company and their union in their continued career delivering a life-saving service.”

With the agreement secured, Bristow plans to upskill the engineers, building on their existing experience to support a new generation of aircraft when the transition gets underway.

The next generation of Irish SAR will use a new fleet of six specialist AW189 helicopters. All the engineers will receive dedicated type-rating training on this advanced aircraft as they transition, ensuring Bristow delivers the right support for people and communities across the country.

Lawson added: “We are looking forward to positive ongoing engagement and cooperation with Unite as we prepare to deliver this critical and life-saving public service for the people of Ireland.”

Bristow Ireland Limited reached similar agreements earlier this year with Fórsa and the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA) covering technical crew (winch operators/winchmen) and flight crews (pilots) respectively.

The company also received its Air Operator Certificate (AOC) from the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) in February, marking significant milestones in preparing to transition this critical service.

In August 2023, Bristow signed a contract with the Department of Transport for the provision of rotary and fixed-wing aviation services for the Irish Coast Guard. Bristow will operate six specialised SAR-configured AW189 helicopters from dedicated bases in Shannon, Sligo, Waterford, and Weston. In addition to the helicopter service, the new Coast Guard aviation service will, for the first time, also include a fixed-wing aircraft service.

Bristow is preparing to transition to the new contract in the fourth quarter of 2024. It will deliver nationwide all-weather 24-hour coverage, 365 days a year. Under the new contract, Bristow will create or sustain more than 150 jobs ranging from specialist ground support, engineering, flight operations, and in-country maintenance and support capabilities, ensuring its teams and aircraft stand at full readiness to respond to tasking from the Irish Coast Guard.
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