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Saturday,  July 13, 2024 8:45 AM 

WestJet confirms end to AMFA strike, says "returning to business-as-usual flying will take time"

WestJet confirms end to AMFA strike, says "returning to business-as-usual flying will take time"
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

WestJet has confirmed that as of June 30, 2024 at 10:30 p.m. MT, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) are withdrawing their strike action.

A late-night press release July 1 confirmed that AMFA members – WestJet’s aircraft maintenance engineers (AMEs) and tech ops – will return to work as scheduled.

The airline and AMFA resumed talks on Sunday (June 30), for the first time since Thursday, June 27, despite a stalemate on the intent of the Minister's order for binding arbitration.

"The damage to Canadians and our airline is massive, a swift resolution was necessary; we take no victory laps on this outcome but will sleep better tonight knowing further harm has been prevented," said Diederik Pen, president of WestJet Airlines and group chief operating officer, in a statement. "We will see no further labour action coming out of this dispute, as both parties agree to arbitrate the contract in the case of a failed ratification." 

Lack of clarity from the government and the decisions taken by the CIRB allowed for a strike to occur amidst binding arbitration, WestJet noted.

With no path forward to resolution, both parties made “essential movements to find common ground and achieve an agreement,” the airline said.

WestJet was forced to park 130 aircraft at 13 airports across Canada in response to the strike, which began Friday evening (June 28). 

With the strike now over, the airline says it will begin work to restore operations in a safe and timely manner.

But given the impact to WestJet's network over the past few days – as of Sunday, WestJet neared a total number of 1,000 flight cancellations – "returning to business-as-usual flying will take time," the airline said.

Further disruptions this week are to be anticipated as the airline gets aircraft and crew back into position. 

"We want to thank guests for their patience during what was an uncertain and stressful time," said Pen. "I want to personally thank our teams of WestJetters who were equally thrust into the uncertainty, and who once again demonstrated their care, dedication and resilience."

"The parties finally did their jobs"

Over the weekend, Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan urged both groups to resolve their differences and get their first agreement done.

The Minister took to his X platform on July 1 to confirm that WestJet and the AMFA have reached a tentative agreement, noting that the patience of Canadians have "been worn too thin." 

"Collective bargaining is the responsibility of the parties," Minister O’Regan wrote. "The responsibility of the government is to facilitate and mediate that bargaining. The parties finally did their jobs."

"We had to find a solution – and we did," says CEO

WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech posted to his LinkedIn page early Monday to comment on the outcome, saying "the last three days were among the most difficult of my career."

"As a result of labour action, we had to park 130 of our 180 aircraft across 13 airports in Canada, but kept operating as much as we could," von Hoensbroech said. "More than 800 cancelled flights and 100,000 stranded guests later, we had to find a solution – and we did."

The CEO went on to say that work begins "to safely restore our operations as swiftly as possible." 

"Unfortunately, this will take time, but we will move forward with the resolve that no further labour action will impact the summer plans of our guests and our people," von Hoensbroech wrote. 

"I am deeply sorry for all our guests caught by the events of the last few days. Equally, I am grateful for the thousands of WestJetters who sacrificed their long weekend to support guests, safely park planes, and will now continue working to restore our operation." 

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