Here's why WestJet pilots could go on strike in the coming months

Apr 3 2023, 4:52 pm

WestJet pilots are conducting a strike authorization vote today as contract negotiations with management drag on, according to the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).

A statement from the WestJet ALPA last Friday said that pilots have grown “increasingly impatient” with management, who have “failed to seriously engage in contract negotiations.”

“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,” said 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.”

Approximately 1,600 WestJet pilots are participating in the strike action vote. The results will be announced on April 18.

Hundreds of pilots gathered at WestJet Airlines headquarters for an informational picket last Friday.

Negotiations have been ongoing for the past six months and are expected to end on April 24. If negotiations aren’t extended, a statutory 21-day cooling-off period will begin.

If an agreement isn’t reached before the Victoria Day long weekend (May 20 to 22), a strike or lockout could occur and extend into the summer months.

Lewall addressed how travellers might be affected if pilots do vote for a strike.

“Flight disruptions are never an ideal outcome for any pilot or our passengers. Our goal is to reach an agreement that provides job security and career progression for our pilots and stability to the airline,” stated Lewall.

The ALPA says the issues on the table for pilots include recruitment and retention, which it says are due to the airline’s attempts to reduce costs by lowering wages and concerns over scheduling and poor working conditions.

In an email to Daily Hive, a WestJet spokesperson said that while this vote, or “threat of a strike,” is a common tactic in the labour negotiation process, it doesn’t 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,” stated the spokesperson.

This isn’t the first time WestJet employees have had to vote for strike authorization. Last summer, the union representing over 700 airline employees in Vancouver and Calgary voted in favour of a strike if contract negotiations failed.

The union representing WestJet pilots, CUPE 4070, has yet to reply to Daily Hive’s request for comment.

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