Strike averted. For now.
WestJet workers in Calgary and Vancouver on Sunday (July 24) reached a tentative first collective agreement, avoiding any service interruptions in advance of Tuesday's strike deadline.
Last week, 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 deal could not be reached.
Unifor Local 531 voted to strike by 98 per cent, according to a press release issued on July 20, but it appears a resolution is now underway.
"This bargaining committee has worked very hard over the last nine months to negotiate this first agreement that brings long overdue wage increases and improvements to working conditions," Scott Doherty, lead negotiator and assistant to the national president, stated in a press release Sunday evening.
Bargaining began in October 2021, and Unifor Local 531 filed for conciliation with the Canadian government on April 26, 2022.
Details of the new agreement will first be presented to members at ratification meetings later this week, the press release read, and a vote will be put forward to membership.
"We are proud to present what we have negotiated to our members and I want to thank them for their patience, support and solidarity during what has been a long and challenging process," said Sherwin Antonio, member of Local 531's Calgary Bargaining Committee.
Last week, WestJet responded to Unifor’s vote to strike, which, if one were to occur, would throw a wrench into an already-chaotic air travel situation in Canada.
“This is a common step in the labour negotiation process and was not unexpected,” Angela Avery, WestJet's executive vice-president and chief people, corporate and sustainability officer, stated last week.
On Sunday night, Avery issued a follow-up statement.
“WestJet is pleased to have reached a tentative agreement that recognizes the important contributions of its valued airport employees, in balance with the long-term success of our airline,” Avery said.
“Achieving this settlement reflects WestJet’s commitment to its employees and to fulfilling the important and long-awaited travel plans of our guests, at this critical recovery time for the Canadian travel and tourism sector.”