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Thursday,  February 29, 2024 11:38 AM 

WestJet pilots hope to avoid strike, but are prepared "for any outcome," union says

  • Air
  •   04-26-2023  5:06 am
  •   Pax Global Media

WestJet pilots hope to avoid strike, but are prepared "for any outcome," union says
(Pax Global Media/File photo)
Pax Global Media

WestJet pilots could be in legal position to strike just before the Victoria Day long weekend, and their representing union said Tuesday (April 25) that the goal is “to avoid a strike.”

But the pilots, regardless, are prepared “for any outcome,” noted the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) in a press release.

Last week’s 93 per cent “yes” vote on a strike-authorization ballot sent a “clear signal” to WestJet management that pilots remain united in securing a North American industry-standard contract, ALPA said.

“After seven months of negotiating, WestJet management still fails to recognize the value and expertise we bring to our company and passengers every day. That’s why every 18 hours, on average, a WestJet Group pilot leaves our company in search of a better opportunity,” stated Capt. Bernard Lewall, chair of the WestJet ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC).

“We want to continue being a major contributor to WestJet’s success and help the company recognize its growth strategy, but if management leaves us no other option, we will be ready to do what it takes to fight for our careers and the future of the airline.”

After the end of the statutory 60-day federal conciliation period yesterday, WestJet pilots have still not reached an agreement with WestJet management.

READ MORE: WestJet pilots vote to authorize strike, could walk before May long weekend

The end of conciliation marks the beginning of a statutory 21-day cooling-off period. Upon the conclusion of the cooling-off period, the pilots could take job action or face a lockout by WestJet management mid-May.  

The pilots’ bargaining proposals are consistent with the contracts that other pilots within North America enjoy, ALPA says.

“Unfortunately, management’s decision to cut costs has resulted in experienced pilots choosing to leave the airline,” the association says.

Capt. Lewall noted that “we need a contract to attract new pilots and retain the experienced, qualified pilots we currently have, help our company recognize its own growth strategy and make our airline a career destination again.”

The ALPA said it remains committed to the bargaining process and will make their negotiators available 24/7 during the remainder the 21-day cooling-off period.

On May 13, the pilots will be able to file a 72-hour strike notice, should management continue to stall negotiations, and could be in a legal position to commence job action on May 16.

What should clients do?

The association is advising the public that if they have already booked a flight on WestJet Airlines from May 16 onward, they may wish to contact the airline directly to find out about the refund policy should a disruption in flights take place.

Last week, the WestJet Group issued a statement, responding to the strike authorization vote that took place.

"A strike authorization vote is a common step by unions in context of the overall labour negotiation process and does not mean a strike will occur," said Diederik Pen, WestJet Group chief operating officer.

"We remain unwaveringly committed to achieving an agreement that is competitive within Canada's airline industry and ensures we have a long-term sustainable future so that we can continue to operate critical air service for millions of Canadians, while providing jobs for thousands at the WestJet Group."

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