TORONTO — WestJet pilots have voted to give their union a strike mandate, and could walk off the job starting May 19. Negotiations are ongoing. Meanwhile Air Canada says it is adding capacity on key transcontinental routes.
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.
The union says negotiations will continue starting next week in Halifax and it is committed to staying there for as long as it takes to get a first collective agreement done.
WestJet issued a statement this afternoon regarding the ALPA strike authorization vote outcome. “We acknowledge the outcome of this vote and recognize the mandate WestJet pilots have given ALPA,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO. “We are certain our guests will appreciate that this update confirms their travel will be unaffected over the Victoria Day long weekend.”
Said Sims, “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.”
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 WestJet’s Vice President Lyell 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.”
Minutes 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.
With files from The Canadian Press