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KF will be servicing WestJet Encore's Q400 fleet from its Kelowna YLW base.

WestJet Encore pilots seek Ottawa’s help in deadlocked contract negotiations

By Skies Magazine | January 17, 2024

Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 54 seconds.

A WestJet Encore Dash 8-400. Adrian Edwards Photo

WestJet Encore pilots have asked the federal government for help to resolve an impasse in collective bargaining negotiations with their regional airline employer.

The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), which represents the pilots, said Tuesday it had filed a request with Ottawa for conciliation assistance to reach a new collective agreement.

“Progress was made in the early stages of the negotiating process, with a robust exchange of proposals and tentative agreements on relatively noncomplicated sections of the collective agreement, however, the parties still remain far apart on multiple key issues,” said Capt Carin Kenny, chair of the WestJet Encore Master Executive Council.

“Momentum at the negotiating table has come to a near standstill since talks shifted to larger, more significant contract sections, including pay and scope.”

ALPA and the WestJet’s regional airline began formal negotiations in September 2023, and the union is seeking a “drastic improvement” on several fronts to prevent its members from jumping to other airlines.

“After months of negotiating, management still fails to understand the fundamental fact that without any drastic improvement on career progression, seniority, and career recognition, there is little stopping WestJet Encore pilots from seeking better employment opportunities,” the union said in a statement.

“Membership survey data clearly shows WestJet Encore pilots are looking to be part of a company that values the talent and experience they bring to the workplace. The pilots are consistently advocating for enhanced working conditions, assured career progression, and overdue recognition within the WestJet group. The pilots have provided solutions to the Company which thus far have fallen on deaf ears.”

The call for more concessions comes in the wake of a major exodus of Canadian pilots to higher-paying jobs in the United States. In 2022, at least 147 Canadian pilots applied for licences to fly in the U.S., according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

“We continue to face numerous setbacks to our careers as WestJet Encore pilots. It’s clear that our management refuses to remain accountable for their missteps,” said Carin Kenny.

“Despite preferring to have a career within the WestJet group of companies, experienced pilots are leaving due to the poor wages, working conditions, and unknown career progression. Why wouldn’t our employer work with us to fix the fundamental issues plaguing our airline?”

Canada’s federal labour minister has 15 days to appoint a conciliation officer, who would then work with the parties for 60 days toward an agreement. In the absence of a new deal, the union would enter a 21-day cooling-off period, potentially followed by a strike.

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