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Wednesday,  June 12, 2024 12:32 PM 

WestJet Encore pilots issue 72-hour strike notice; work stoppage could occur as early as June 1

  • Air
  •   05-29-2024  6:23 pm
  •   Pax Global Media

WestJet Encore pilots issue 72-hour strike notice; work stoppage could occur as early as June 1
(WestJet Encore)
Pax Global Media

WestJet Encore pilots issued a 72-hour strike notice to airline management and the government on Wednesday (May 29), triggering a countdown that could lead to job action as soon as June 1 if a deal isn’t reached.

The group, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), was bargaining for two weeks following the pilots’ rejection of a tentative agreement (TA).

According to a press release, some progress was made. However: “Both sides remain apart on addressing the issues of central importance to the pilot group,” said the ALPA.

“After eight months of negotiating, and a failed TA, unfortunately management has not recognized the pilots’ needs. We have expressed to management that we are willing to work with them to further address the issues that clearly remain for our pilots,” said Capt. Carin Kenny, chair of the WestJet Encore ALPA Master Executive Council, in a statement.

“Until WestJet Encore management negotiates a contract that recognizes the current labour market conditions in Canada’s airline industry, and addresses the needs of our pilots, management will continue to struggle to attract and retain the well-trained, highly skilled pilots required to help our airline be successful.”

Capt. Kenny added that flight disruptions are “never an ideal outcome for any pilot or their passengers.”

“Our goal has never been to strike,” he stated. “Our goal remains to negotiate a fair contract that works for both parties. However, we are ready for all outcomes, should the company continue to ignore the value and experience we bring to our airline and ignore what is required to ensure that current and future pilots see the WestJet Group as a career destination.”

The ALPA says it remains committed to the bargaining process.

“If no agreement has been reached by the end of the 72-hour strike notice, the pilots will be in a legal position to commence job action on June 1. If that is the case, the pilots’ strike centers in Calgary and Toronto are now fully operational and staffed by dedicated pilot volunteers,” the union said.

WestJet issues advance lockout notification

WestJet Encore is a regional airline headquartered in Calgary, AB that operates feeder flights for WestJet.

In a news release late Wednesday, WestJet issued an advance lockout notification, confirming that a work stoppage could occur as early as Saturday, June 1, 2024, at 6 p.m. MT, unless a deal is reached.

“The decision to issue notice was not made lightly, and we sincerely apologize for the uncertainty this causes for our guests and the Western Canadian regions that rely on WestJet Encore service; we are hopeful that guest disruption can still be prevented,” said Diederik Pen, president of WestJet Airline and group chief operating officer, in a statement.  

“Our tentative agreement represented a robust negotiation process that got us to our final offer. Given this, over the past two weeks, we have been working diligently to understand where we could better align priorities within the financial framework presented. Unfortunately, given the pace of progress and our steadfast priority to protect the summer travel plans of Canadians, a lockout notice was required to provide certainty for our guests and employees by bringing this to a final resolution.”

The WestJet Group says the rejected tentative agreement presented an offer that would make WestJet Encore pilots the highest paid regional pilots in Canada, while also delivering work-life balance standards and commitments to career progression.

"We sincerely value our Encore pilots and the service they facilitate, which enables us to provide critical air connectivity to regional communities across Western Canada. We are unwaveringly committed to reaching an agreement to prevent travel disruption; however, we are equally committed to holding firm on what is reasonable as we cannot sacrifice our ability to provide affordable air travel for the millions of guests and communities we serve or our responsibility to provide job security for our employees across the WestJet Group,” stated Pen.

WestJet Encore lockout details

Issuing a lockout notice does not mean travel disruptions will occur, the airline said.

However, in the coming days, the WestJet Group will be taking actions to manage the impacts as much as possible, including:

  • Beginning preparations to operate a reduced WestJet Encore schedule.
  • Proactively managing changes and cancellations, to ensure the ability to communicate with guests in advance of their flight.
  • Providing flexible change and cancel options for those who wish to make alternative arrangements.

Visit WestJet’s Guest Updates page for more info regarding flight status, travel changes and applicable dates for flexible change and cancel options.

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