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WestJet pilots begin strike vote after months of failed contract negotiations

A WestJet Boeing 737 sits on the tarmac as a Air Canada plane take-off from Ottawa International airport. Lars Hagberg / CP

The union representing WestJet pilots announced Wednesday it is calling a strike vote as an agreement still hasn’t been reached with WestJet management after months of negotiation.

“With the busy summer travel season fast approaching, the end of the statutory 60-day federal conciliation period on Friday the 27 marks the beginning of a statutory 21-day cooling-off period, after which the pilots are permitted to strike,” The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said in a news release.

READ MORE: WestJet CEO sends email to employees warning against unionization of airline staff

“While the WestJet Pilots aim to avoid any possible job action, the WestJet Master Executive Council (MEC) did take measures today, to ensure they are prepared for any eventuality, by making the decision to call for a strike authorization ballot vote to the members of their bargaining group, for consideration.”

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Voting opened Wednesday and pilots have 15 days to cast their vote.

The ALPA said bargaining proposals were “reasonable” and in line with contracts other pilots across North America have. It went on to say that the union and WestJet don’t’ see eye to eye on several issues, including working conditions, compensation and job security.

“Our goal remains to reach a fair contract that also brings stability to the airline,”  Capt. Rob McFadyen, chairman of WestJet’s ALPA MEC said in a release.

The ALPA said WestJet management only met with them for 14 days of the 60-day conciliation process, adding “conciliators did not have sufficient time to assist the parties.”

“The pilots hope to avoid taking job action, which could include a strike,” the ALPA said.

READ MORE: WestJet union drive helped by dissatisfaction with pay formula, says flight attendant

In a statement late Wednesday, WestJet president and CEO Ed Sims said the strike vote is a “common step by unions in context of the overall labour negotiation process.”

“We remain focused on successfully negotiating an agreement that will benefit our pilots and WestJet.”

The ALPA represents about 1,500 WestJet pilots and 500 WestJet Encore pilots, along with thousands of pilots from other airlines.

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