Canada's WestJet Airlines pilots approve mandate for possible strike

Daniel Fowler
May 11, 2018

WestJet pilots have voted to give their union a strike mandate, and could walk off the job starting May 19.

The union says the pilots have committed to not disrupting passenger travel plans over the Victoria Day long weekend.

The pilots, who are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), voted 91% in favour of a strike mandate that puts them in a legal strike position as of May 19.

With that in mind, the union states that it won't strike until after Victoria Day.

Meanwhile, negotiators on both sides plan to sit down in Halifax next week.

"I'm hoping with the gesture of goodwill we made today that we'll see some significant progress at the table and we can hopefully come to a successful negotiation relatively quickly", Capt. Rob McFadyen, chairman of the WestJet association's master executive council, said in an interview. "The strong results of our strike vote and the excellent turnout at our informational picketing event earlier this week should provide management the added incentive it needs to bring serious proposals to the bargaining table that address our concerns".

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The Canadian airline acknowledged the outcome of the vote and the mandate pilots have given ALPA.

"WestJet is thrilled to support the Winnipeg hockey community and our WestJetters in their love of Canada's game", said John Weatherill, WestJet Vice President, Pricing and Revenue Management and Chief Winnipeg Hockey Fan.

Air Canada Thursday afternoon (May 10) issued another statement, saying that it has added capacity on transcontinental routes by "upgauging" aircraft on popular routes, including those between Toronto and Vancouver and Vancouver and Calgary. The union wants assurances that those jobs are theirs, or-at the very least-Swoop flying will not supplant WestJet flying.

WestJet and its pilots have been in contract negotiations since September. He declined to offer specifics.

Earlier this week, WestJet said uncertainty from the labor dispute, as passengers deferred travel bookings, along with higher expenses, would weigh on second-quarter earnings, sending shares to their lowest point in two years.

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