WestJet workers vote to strike, seek new contract with airline

Jul 20 2022, 2:50 pm

Another kink in Canada’s ongoing airport chaos across the country has been thrown into the mix as WestJet employees have voted to strike against the airline.

The union, which represents over 700 WestJet employees in Vancouver and Calgary, says it has voted in favour of a strike if it cannot reach a new contract with the airline.

Unifor represents baggage and customer service agents along with guest service leads at YYC Calgary International Airport and Vancouver International Airport.

According to the union, workers voted 98% in favour of a strike as early as July 27 if a deal with the airline cannot be reached.

“This is a common step in the labour negotiation process and was not unexpected,” says Angela Avery, Unifor’s executive vice president and chief people, corporate and sustainability officer. “We remain focused on successfully negotiating an agreement that provides value to our airport employees, many of whom have joined WestJet in the last year. In the meantime, we will continue to provide our guests with the friendly and affordable air travel WestJet has always been known for.”

WestJet says it is “committed to competitive compensation” for its employees, while “ensuring the airline is positioned to return to profitability, following more than two years of unprecedented financial losses resulting from the pandemic.”

The union says as the airline rebuilds, “the majority” of its airport’s employees have been with the company for less than one year, and the “vast majority” of more tenured airport employees have received increases through the existing pay step structure.

WestJet says it is working on “precautionary contingency plans” and has identified employees who “may be reassigned if required.”

The airline says this “preventative measure” is in place to ensure critical air service continuity from coast-to-coast and to protect the fragile recovery of Canada’s travel and tourism industry.

“The airline continues to work closely with the federal government, third-party providers and airport partners to mitigate operational challenges that remain outside of WestJet’s control in this challenging recovery landscape,” concludes a Wednesday press release.

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