Category Archives: WestJet Encore
Westjet pilots, taking a major step closer to a costly showdown with the airline’s management, overwhelmingly approved a strike if the two sides fail to agree on a new contract during the last-ditch conciliation process currently underway. Calgary-based WestJet pilots are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA)
Conciliation—similar to US mediation—includes 60 days of negotiations and a cooling-off period before a strike can take place. WestJet pilots have approved a strike if talks remain stalled, with 91% of those casting a ballot—95% of the 2,000 WestJet and WestJet Encore pilots voted—approving a job action. The earliest they could walk out is May 19—the end of the cooling-off period. But the union says it will not take any action before Canada’s Victoria Day holiday weekend ends. Victoria Day is May 21.
Meanwhile, negotiators on both sides plan to sit down in Halifax next week.
“The goal is—and always has been—to secure a fair collective agreement that brings stability to the airline, and not to strike,” WestJet’s ALPA Master Executive Council chairman Rob McFadyen said. “The strong results of our strike vote and the excellent turnout at our informational picketing event earlier this week should provide management the added incentive it needs to bring serious proposals to the bargaining table that address our concerns.”
About 150 union pilots gathered in Calgary May 8 to demonstrate during WestJet’s annual general meeting. CEO Ed Sims acknowledged the picketers, but stuck by his stance that he will not negotiate a deal anywhere but at the bargaining table.
“The best role I can play with my negotiating team is to remain at the table and make progress,” Sims said. “We acknowledge the outcome of this vote and recognize the mandate WestJet pilots have given ALPA.”
The two sides suggest that talks during conciliation have been productive, but they remain divided on the key issue of staffing WestJet’s Swoop ULCC. Without a deal in place with current employee groups, the airline is hiring many pilots from outside of Canada—including many Canadian nationals, it said. The union wants assurances that those jobs are theirs, or—at the very least—Swoop flying will not supplant WestJet flying. WestJet executives say they remain on track to start Swoop next month, and are preparing for the worst-cast scenario if pilots walk out.
“We have been working for a considerable amount of time on potential contingency plans,” Sims said. He declined to offer specifics.
The threat of a strike has hit bookings, Sims said, forcing the carrier to revise second-quarter RASM guidance downward, and pause any longer-term guidance projections.