Great Slave Helicopters reduces N.W.T. employees' work hours

Great Slave Helicopters has reduced the work hours of 23 of its 56 employees in the Northwest Territories in response to the continued slowdown of the mining and oil and gas sectors.

President blames mining and oil and gas sector slowdown

Great Slave Helicopters has reduced the work hours of 23 of its 56 employees in the Northwest Territories in response to the continued slowdown of the mining and oil and gas sectors.

"We expected a decrease in [flight volumes] in 2015 but it was much more than we had expected," said Chris Bassett, the president of Great Slave Helicopters.

Great Slave Helicopters is one of several aviation companies owned by Discovery Air. (CBC)

The employees whose hours have been reduced — maintenance engineers and apprentices — mostly work at the company's base in Yellowknife. They're now working three days a week, instead of five.

"It's absolutely the last lever we pull. We have made numerous cost cuts over the last several months," said Bassett.

Those cuts include selling off planes, cutting 16 support and management positions in Yellowknife, Calgary and Kelowna, and laying off some pilots. Support and management positions have also been transferred out of Yellowknife to Calgary.

A 'deeper' cut than usual

Great Slave Helicopters generates 90 per cent of its revenue during the busy summer season, and typically lays people off during the quieter winter months, said Bassett.

"But this cut was deeper than a typical year. It had to be," he said.

"I look at the price of Brent oil every day and this morning it was trading under $32 a barrel from its all-time high a few years ago of $111 [a barrel]."

While Bassett called the reduced-hours move a "temporary" one, he said he doesn't expect the mining and oil and gas sectors to recover by this summer.

Employees were notified of the change last week.

"We're very aware of...how expensive it is to live there," said Bassett. "And we had, to be honest with you, quite a bit of trouble finding people for certain positions in Yellowknife, which is part of the reason we moved some of those support positions to Calgary where it's far less expensive to live."

Great Slave Helicopters is owned by Discovery Air.

The corporation's latest quarterly report, released last month, said revenue was up by two per cent from one year before, but went on to say the North's "volatile operations" require "rigorous cost-saving initiatives in an effort to improve cash flow and profitability."

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