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WestJet Pilots Will Strike This Week if Airline Can’t Negotiate New Deal, Says Union

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WestJet pilots will go on strike on May 19 if the airline can’t negotiate a new deal with their union, says the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA). The pilots are asking for better salaries, job protection, and shift scheduling.

ALPA said in a news release on May 15 that the pilots issued a 72-hour strike notice to WestJet management and the federal government, calling for their requests to be met before the pilots can “legally utilize all the options available to them under the Canada Labour Code.” The strike deadline is set at 3:00 a.m. ET on May 19.

ALPA is the world’s largest airline pilot union and represents over 69,000 pilots working for 39 American and Canadian airlines. The union represents about 1,600 flight crew at WestJet and the airline’s subsidiary company Swoop.

Bernard Lewall, chair of the WestJet ALPA Master Executive Council, said negotiations have been ongoing but unfruitful for the past nine months, adding that WestJet’s management “still fails to understand today’s labour market conditions,” which he said has led to “a mass exodus of our pilots in search of better work opportunities.”

About 340 pilots have left WestJet—mostly to work for other airlines—over the past year and a half.

ALPA had warned that a WestJet pilot strike could begin as early as May 12, but said it delayed the strike “in good faith” as a means of allowing “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 union said in the release.

If a strike does begin on May 19, Lewall said WestJet will be forced to ground planes until it negotiates a new deal as the airline “will not have enough pilots to operate them or accomplish its own growth strategy.”

He added that the union will make its negotiators available at all hours, day and night, until the strike deadline, in order to increase its chances of reaching a deal before then.

ALPA said the WestJet pilots are looking for “better job security, industry-standard pay, and more flexible schedules to allow for a better work life balance,” which it said would be consistent with other collective bargaining agreements reached by different ALPA-represented pilot groups and their airlines.

The Epoch Times contacted WestJet for comment on the matter but did not hear back before press time.

The Canadian Press contributed to this report. 

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