WestJet pilots file 72-hour strike notice, negotiations continue

WestJet pilots file 72-hour strike notice, negotiations continue

CALGARY — WestJet pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), have issued a 72-hour strike notice to WestJet management and the federal government.

The notice came down last night at 8 p.m., starting the clock on a 72-hour countdown to negotiate a contract. As of 3 a.m. ET on May 19, says the ALPA, the WestJet pilots plan to begin lawful job action, which could include grounding all aircraft and effectively shutting down operations.

A statement from the ALPA says the union could have filed the notice over the weekend, “but in a bid to keep the airline operating, agreed to extend negotiations. This sign of good faith was to allow enough time to review additional proposals put forth by both parties. While progress was made on most non-cost items, both sides have been unable to reach an agreement that will serve the best interests of all parties involved.”

The airline and the union have been in negotiations for some nine months.

“Flight disruptions are never an ideal outcome, especially given the tremendous support our guests have shown us, and we want to continue being a major contributor to our company’s success by helping WestJet realize its growth strategy,” said Capt. Bernard Lewall, chair of the WestJet ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC).

Legal added: “We are hopeful today’s strike notice filing will provide management with the incentive to recognize just how dire the situation is and reach an agreement with us. That’s why we will continue to make our negotiators available 24/7 during the remainder of the 72-hour strike notice period.”

The WestJet Group responded to the 72-hour strike notice with a lockout notice, saying a work stoppage could occur as early as Friday at 3 a.m. MDT.

“The decision to issue a lockout notice, in response to the actions taken by the union today, was not one that was made lightly, and we sincerely regret the inconvenience and uncertainty this continues to cause for our guests,” WestJet Group CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech said in a statement.

The WestJet statement noted the lockout notice does not mean a work stoppage will occur, and that both parties remain at the bargaining table. But it said the company would “begin preparations to operate a reduced schedule” and warned it would be “a significant reduction from WestJet and Swoop’s current networks.”

WestJet said passengers impacted by flight delays or cancellations will be refunded or re-accommodated as applicable.

With file from The Canadian Press

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