The first collective bargaining agreement between WestJet and Unifor was ratified on Friday (July 29) by Unifor's members, resolving a possible strike action that was first publicized last week.
On July 20, Unifor Local 531, the union that represents nearly 800 WestJet baggage service workers, customer service agents and guest service leads at Calgary and Vancouver airports voted to support strike action if a new deal could not be reached.
By Sunday (July 24), a tentative first collective agreement was announced, avoiding any service interruptions in advance of a Tuesday strike deadline.
Details of the new agreement were presented to members at ratification meetings this week.
"WestJet is pleased to share that the agreement negotiated with Unifor has been ratified by its membership," said Angela Avery, WestJet's executive vice-president and chief people, corporate and sustainability officer, on Friday. "This settlement demonstrates WestJet's commitment to its employees, the long-term success of the airline and the communities we serve."
The agreement will come into Sept. 1, 2022 and will be in place until Dec. 31, 2026.
"This agreement will provide our guests, who rely on our critical investments for their air travel needs, with well-deserved confidence in their long-awaited travel plans," Avery stated.
A 13% increase
The contract gives union members at least a 13 per cent wage increase - their first increase in five years, according to a press release issued Friday.
"After nine months of challenging bargaining, the Local 531 bargaining committee achieved long overdue and significant wage increases, improved benefits and better working conditions," said Scott Doherty, executive assistant to the national president and lead on the airline sector.
"Members starting out in the wage grid will see their wages rise as much as 40 per cent and members at the top of the scale will see increases between 13 per cent and 17 per cent over the life of the agreement."
Steps have also merged, condensing the time workers progress, ensuring faster wage increases, Unifor says.
A five per cent premium over CSA/PSA wage scale replaces the $1 per hour premium previously in place.
An extra step at the top of the grid giving members an additional increase after eight years of service.
Other gains include a $100.00 yearly uniform allowance, paid breaks, 100-hour stat holiday credit, continuation of the WestJet Savings Plan, seniority rights, 12 sick days for full time and 10 for part time workers, minimum rest periods, and improved scheduling, Unifor says.
WestJet has also agreed that casual employees will not exceed 10 per cent of the workforce.
Bargaining began in October 2021, and Unifor Local 531 filed for conciliation with the Canadian government on April 26, 2022.
"Together we have proven there is power in a union and we strongly encourage WestJetters in Edmonton to join Unifor Local 531. Our bargaining committee worked hard for these important gains and we appreciate the unwavering solidarity from the members," said Sherwin Antonio, member of Local 531's Calgary Bargaining Committee, in a statement.