Pilots with WestJet, days away from a possible strike or lockout, will host an "informational" nationwide picket on Monday (May 8), according to the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), the union representing the group.
According to a press release issued Friday (May 5), hundreds of pilots will stand in solidarity at three of Canada’s largest airports to show WestJet management they remain committed to negotiating a "North American industry-standard contract."
WestJet ALPA's leadership will provide an update on negotiations between the union and WestJet Airlines management, the group says.
Pilots will be in uniform on Monday at demonstrations at Calgary International Airport (YYC), Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) and Vancouver International Airport (YVR), the ALPA says.
Prepared “for any outcome"
WestJet pilots could be in legal position to strike just before the Victoria Day long weekend, ALPA says the goal is to "avoid a strike."
Still, members are prepared “for any outcome,” the union noted in a press release last week.
A 93 per cent “yes” vote on a strike-authorization ballot sent a “clear signal” to WestJet management that pilots remain united in securing what it calls a "industry-standard contract," ALPA said.
“After seven months of negotiating, WestJet management still fails to recognize the value and expertise we bring to our company and passengers every day. That’s why every 18 hours, on average, a WestJet Group pilot leaves our company in search of a better opportunity,” stated Capt. Bernard Lewall, chair of the WestJet ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC).
“We want to continue being a major contributor to WestJet’s success and help the company recognize its growth strategy, but if management leaves us no other option, we will be ready to do what it takes to fight for our careers and the future of the airline.”
The pilots’ bargaining proposals are "consistent" with the contracts that other pilots within North America enjoy, ALPA says.
“Unfortunately, management’s decision to cut costs has resulted in experienced pilots choosing to leave the airline,” the association says.
Capt. Lewall noted that “we need a contract to attract new pilots and retain the experienced, qualified pilots we currently have, help our company recognize its own growth strategy and make our airline a career destination again.”
The ALPA is advising the public that if they have booked a flight on WestJet Airlines from May 16 onward, they may wish to contact the airline directly to find out about the refund policy should a disruption in flights take place.
Earlier this month, the WestJet Group issued a statement, responding to the strike authorization vote that took place.
"A strike authorization vote is a common step by unions in context of the overall labour negotiation process and does not mean a strike will occur," said Diederik Pen, WestJet Group chief operating officer.
"We remain unwaveringly committed to achieving an agreement that is competitive within Canada's airline industry and ensures we have a long-term sustainable future so that we can continue to operate critical air service for millions of Canadians, while providing jobs for thousands at the WestJet Group."
Visit westjetpilots.com for ongoing updates.