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WestJet Encore pilots issue strike notice amid ongoing labour dispute

By Skies Magazine | May 30, 2024

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 10 seconds.

A WestJet Encore Dash 8-400. Adrian Edwards Photo

On the afternoon of May 29, WestJet Encore pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), issued a 72-hour strike notice to WestJet Encore management and the government, initiating a countdown to either negotiate a fair contract or potentially commence job action under the Canada Labour Code.

ALPA says “some progress” has been made during the past two weeks of negotiations — which followed the pilots’ rejection of a tentative agreement (TA) — but significant issues remain unresolved.

“After eight months of negotiating, and a failed TA, unfortunately management has not recognized the pilots’ needs,” said Capt Carin Kenny, chair of the WestJet Encore ALPA Master Executive Council. “Until WestJet Encore management negotiates a contract that recognizes the current labour market conditions in Canada’s airline industry, and addresses the needs of our pilots, management will continue to struggle to attract and retain the well-trained, highly skilled pilots required to help our airline be successful.”

Kenny emphasized that while flight disruptions are undesirable, the goal remains to secure a fair contract. “We are ready for all outcomes, should the Company continue to ignore the value and experience we bring to our airline and ignore what is required to ensure that current and future pilots see the WestJet Group as a career destination.”

ALPA said it “remains committed to the bargaining process.” If an agreement has not been reached by the end of the 72-hour notice, Encore pilots may legally commence job action on June 1.

In response to the pilots’ strike notice, WestJet on May 29 issued an advance lockout notice to ALPA. A work stoppage could occur as early as 6 p.m. MT on June 1, unless an agreement is reached.

“The decision to issue notice was not made lightly, and we sincerely apologize for the uncertainty this causes for our guests and the Western Canadian regions that rely on WestJet Encore service,” said Diederik Pen, president of WestJet Airline and Group chief operating officer.

“Our tentative agreement represented a robust negotiation process that got us to our final offer. Given this, over the past two weeks, we have been working diligently to understand where we could better align priorities within the financial framework presented. Unfortunately, given the pace of progress and our steadfast priority to protect the summer travel plans of Canadians, a lockout notice was required to provide certainty for our guests and employees by bringing this to a final resolution.”    

The WestJet Group has been in active labour negotiations with ALPA since September 2023. According to the airline, “the rejected tentative agreement presented an offer that would make WestJet Encore pilots the highest paid regional pilots in Canada, while delivering industry leading work-life balance standards and commitments to career progression.”

Pen said while WestJet is aiming to reach an agreement to avoid travel disruption, “we are equally committed to holding firm on what is reasonable, as we cannot sacrifice our ability to provide affordable air travel for the millions of guests we serve, or our responsibility to provide job security for our employees.”

The airline emphasized that issuing a lockout notice does not guarantee travel disruption. In the coming days, WestJet said it will take steps to manage potential impacts, including preparing for a reduced Encore schedule, managing changes and cancellations, and offering flexible options for customers to make alternative arrangements.

ALPA, representing more than 77,000 pilots at 41 U.S. and Canadian airlines, continues to advocate for a fair resolution. With strike centres in Calgary and Toronto fully operational, the union is ready for all possible outcomes as the 72-hour notice period concludes.

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1 Comment

  1. It is disgusting that highly paid pilits would hold hostage hard working customers that had to save a long time for there holiday. Furthermore they could be stranded & unable to afford new flights & hotel expenses.

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