WestJet pilots to vote on strike action after talks stall

Click to play video: 'WestJet pilots picket outside Calgary headquarters seeking new deal with airline'
WestJet pilots picket outside Calgary headquarters seeking new deal with airline
WATCH: WestJet’s pilot union is threatening job action as it seeks to reach an agreement with the airline. – Mar 31, 2023

Pilots for WestJet are set for a strike authorization vote on Monday after they say talks have broken down over the past six months.

The union representing pilots said it’s had members move on to other opportunities as a result.

“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,” Capt. Bernard Lewall, chair of WestJet’s Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) pilot group, said.

“Those of us here today are fighting for the change that will make our airline a career destination for pilots once again.”

Pilots and some crew members held an informational picket in front of WestJet’s Calgary headquarters on Friday.

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“There’s three main topics that we’re discussing at the table that we’re having a hard time reaching consensus,” Lewall told Global News. “The first is job protection. The second is we need increased wages to match or to get closer to the North American average. And then the third is a better work-life balance.”

The result of the strike vote from 1,600 members is expected on April 18.

Cabin crew members joined the pilots in the informational picketing Friday, with their union saying the pilots’ interests are in sync with the airline’s.

“WestJet is losing employees because they are not offering competitive compensation,” CUPE 4070 president Alia Hussain said. “Cabin crew members understand this and we are standing with the pilots in their dispute.”

WestJet said the informational pickets were not impacting their flight operations on Friday. The airline also said they respected the workers’ right to picket and were “committed to listening to our pilots’ concerns.

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“Our focus remains at the bargaining table, as we are actively bargaining with ALPA’s negotiation team. We are unwaveringly committed to achieving an agreement that is competitive within Canada’s airline industry and we believe with a commitment from both parties, an agreement is achievable,” a statement to Global News read.

Negotiations are being conducted through a federal conciliation process, due to end on April 24. If no extension is added to the talks, a 21-day cooling-off period begins and if no deal is reached before Victoria Day, both parties are released from the process to pursue other actions like picketing, striking, or lockouts.

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