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TORONTO — WestJet says it is working on contingency plans to minimize any impact to its passengers in the event of a pilots strike and says that WestJet will offer passengers a full refund if travel plans are disrupted.
The latest statement from Lyell Farquharson, Vice President Sales & Distribution, WestJet Airlines also notes that if the ALPA’s Master Executive Council (MEC), the union representing WestJet’s pilots, decides to call for a strike, they are required to provide WestJet with a 72-hour notice of the strike. “Strike mandates are a relatively common collective bargaining tactic. It does not mean that a strike will take place,” says Farquharson, adding that the strike authorization does not include WestJet Encore.
As reported earlier, to support the progress being made at the bargaining table the ALPA has committed to WestJet that no industrial action will take place over the Victoria Day long weekend. “This will allow the bargaining teams to meet every day next week, working towards reaching a mutually-supported agreement,” says Farquharson.
He adds: “I recognize and appreciate the frustration this uncertainty brings. We are working diligently towards a negotiated settlement.”
WestJet’s pilots union may be armed with a strike mandate but both the union and the airline are still negotiating in good faith and the ALPA says it’s committed to staying at the bargaining table for as long as it takes to get a first collective agreement.
The latest statement from WestJet echoes the union’s determination to hammer out a deal. “We remain at the negotiation table to drive a sustainable agreement, in the best interest of our pilots, 13,000 WestJetters and the 70,000 guests who fly with us daily,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO.
Sims added: “We acknowledge the outcome of this vote and recognize the mandate WestJet pilots have given ALPA.”
The Air Line Pilots Association says members voted 91% in favour of strike action. About 95% of WestJet’s 1,500 pilots and WestJet Encore’s 500 pilots voted.
The result was announced with eight days remaining in the 21-day cooling-off period after which the union can launch a strike or the airline can lock out employees.
Although the pilots will be in a legal position to start job action on May 19, the union says it has committed to not strike over the Victoria Day long weekend as bargaining continues.
“We are certain our guests will appreciate that this update confirms their travel will be unaffected over the Victoria Day long weekend,” said Sims.
WestJet and its pilots have been in contract negotiations since September. A major issue for the union is the company’s hiring of outside pilots for its new ULCC Swoop, set to launch in June.
On April 27 Farquharson has released a letter to the airline’s partners to ease concerns. “Our President and CEO, Ed Sims, is committed to negotiating a successful agreement with ALPA and I can assure you that our flight operations continue uninterrupted.
“We remain focused on working with ALPA and continuing the momentum we have achieved through the bargaining process, which is scheduled to continue in April, May and June. We are confident we will reach a successful conclusion.”
Soon after the strike vote results were announced Air Canada sent out a statement saying it was adding capacity on key transcontinental routes by up-gauging aircraft on certain flights from Toronto to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, from Vancouver to Calgary, Edmonton, and from Calgary to Montreal.
Meanwhile WestJet’s negotiations with the ALPA continue in Halifax.
“We’re making progress on some of the smaller issues that we hoped to clear up quite some time ago but I believe we’ll be addressing a lot of the major issues in the coming week,” said Capt. Rob McFadyen, chairman of the WestJet association’s master executive council.
With files from The Canadian Press