The union that represents WestJet pilots will launch a strike authorization vote on Monday (April 3) as contract talks with the airline’s management drag on, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said Friday (Mach 31).
According to a press release, hundreds of WestJet pilots gathered at WestJet Airlines headquarters in Calgary on Friday for an informational picket and to announce the opening of a strike authorization.
Over the past six months, pilots have grown “increasingly impatient" with WestJet management, who has “failed to seriously engage in contract negotiations,” says the ALPA.
“Without an industry-standard contract, many WestJet pilots are choosing to leave for better opportunities, leaving a dwindling number of pilots choosing to work here,” stated Capt. Bernard Lewall, chair of WestJet’s ALPA pilot group. “Those of us here today are fighting for the change that will make our airline a career destination for pilots once again.”
The issues have to do with wages, scheduling and work conditions at WestJet and its discount subsidiary Swoop.
Currently, negotiations are being conducted through the federal conciliation process, which will end April 24.
Without a negotiation extension, a statutory 21-day cooling-off period will begin.
If an agreement is not reached prior to the Victoria Day long weekend, both parties would be released to self-help, such as a strike or lockout, that could extend into the summer months, says the ALPA.
A strike vote among the pilot group is a mandatory step in the process of being released.
The situation has gotten so tense that 39 WestJet pilots apparently have left for other airlines in the past month alone, Lewall told the Canadian Press.
“Flight disruptions are never an ideal outcome for any pilot or our passengers,” Lewall stated. “Our goal is to reach an agreement that provides job security and career progression for our pilots and stability to the airline.”
“We will remain available 24/7 and expect to continue negotiating during the remainder of the voting process, conciliation, and the 21-day cooling-off period.”
Lewall said he does not believe in management’s ability to bargain in good faith.
“After half a year of negotiating, management still fails to have a realistic understanding of today’s labour market, consistent with collective agreements other ALPA-represented pilot groups are signing with their employers,” Lewall said.
WestJet says the threat of a strike is a “common and expected tactic'' in the negotiation process.”
“However, that does not mean a strike will occur. WestJet is committed to this process and will continue to work with ALPA to reach a collective agreement that provides value to our current and future pilots, is sustainable for the company and avoids disruption to our guests,'' airline spokeswoman Madison Kruger told CP.
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