At least 1 N.W.T. pilot laid off from Great Slave Helicopters

A pilot from Fort Simpson, N.W.T., says he learned Friday that he lost his job as a result of the company's restructuring. Last week, the new owner said there were no plans to cut jobs in the N.W.T.

Last week, the new owner said there were no plans to cut jobs in the N.W.T.

Ron Blauel and his dog Trigger at Little Doctor Lake in the N.W.T. Blauel received a layoff notice from Great Slave Helicopters last week. (Submitted by Ron Blauel)

The current and previous heads of Great Slave Helicopters are touting the sale of the company as good news for the Northwest Territories — but it's not so good for one man in Fort Simpson.

Ron Blauel, a pilot and base manager in the Dehcho community, was laid off as a result of the company's sale and restructuring.

In an emailed statement, Blauel said he was "disheartened" to hear the Yellowknife-based company apparently wanted to refocus on its northern roots, but "failed to see the value in employing one of the few Indigenous, local, rotary wing pilots of the North."

An Ontario court approved the sale of Great Slave Helicopters on Nov. 23. Last week, the new owner said there were no plans to cut jobs in the N.W.T.

Before it was sold, Great Slave Helicopters had been struggling financially. It was losing about $5 million annually, according to court documents. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

CBC News obtained Blauel's notice of termination. The letter, dated Nov. 26, said Blauel's employment was being terminated immediately.

The notice is signed by Alasdair Martin, who was president of Great Slave Helicopters prior to the sale and is no longer with the company.

The letter indicates that Blauel is a casualty of the company's restructuring.

"Effective today, the Company is taking steps to rationalize its workforce while it continues to pursue certain strategic alternatives, including the potential sale of the Company," reads the letter.

'Extremely, extremely disappointed'

On the phone on Tuesday, Blauel said he didn't learn he had been let go until Friday. 

"I was extremely, extremely disappointed," said Blauel.

"I've always wanted to do this kind of flying and I finally made that happen for myself through [Great Slave Helicopters] and it was going great."

This is looking for a negative story where this is a very positive outcome.- Alasdair Martin, former president Great Slave Helicopters

It's unclear at this time if any other Great Slave Helicopters workers in the N.W.T. were laid off as part of the company's reorganization.

When asked whether any workers had been let go ahead of the sale, Martin was evasive.

"My comment is this is looking for a negative story where this is a very positive outcome," Martin said, referring to the sale.

Martin was made aware that CBC had obtained an N.W.T. employee's notice of termination. He declined to comment on the layoff but did not deny signing the letter.

Pat Campling Jr., an aviation executive in La Ronge, Sask., is Great Slave Helicopters' new owner and CEO.

He refused to speak when reached by phone on Monday.

Over the weekend, however, Campling told CBC he was not aware of any N.W.T. layoffs last week. Campling said he knew of one employee in the territory who was let go by the previous owner.

Campling said there were job cuts in Calgary, and that "lots of pilots were laid off," but they didn't live in the N.W.T.

Before it was sold, Great Slave Helicopters had been struggling financially. It was losing about $5 million annually, according to court documents.

In September, the court granted the company creditor protection.

In a statement following the sale, Campling said his plan was to operate the company "lean and mean," and return it to "its northern roots."

With files from Priscilla Hwang

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