ALPA takes legal action against WestJet and WestJet Encore

WestJet and WestJet Encore pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), have filed an unfair labour practice (ULP) complaint and an application for an interim order with the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB).

A WestJet Boeing 737-800 soars above the clouds. ALPA alleges alleges the airline violated the Canada Labour Code. WestJet Photo
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ALPA also filed a notice of dispute and request for conciliation assistance with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) with regard to collective bargaining at WestJet.

“No one is more committed to the success of WestJet than our pilots–many of us are owners in the airline,” said Capt Rob McFadyen, chairman of WestJet’s ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC).

“However, management’s actions are a clear violation of the Canada Labour Code, and we urge the CIRB to order them to cease and desist. Our pilots will stand up for our rights and continue to work toward a fair and reasonable collective agreement that meets the priorities of our pilots and brings stability to the airline.”

The ULP complaint and application for an interim order assert that WestJet and WestJet Encore management violated numerous provisions of the Canada Labour Code by, among other things:

  • Directly negotiating with pilots instead of with the union over key terms and conditions of employment at Swoop, an ultra-low-cost alter-ego airline which is slated to begin flying this summer;
  • Interfering with ALPA’s exclusive representational rights of WestJet and WestJet Encore pilots; and
  • Changing and ignoring well-established pilot work rules and policies.

ALPA is asking the CIRB to find that WestJet and WestJet Encore management officials violated these and other provisions of the Canada Labour Code.

Furthermore, by filing an application for an interim order on behalf of both WestJet and WestJet Encore pilots, ALPA is asking the CIRB to take immediate action to neutralize the potential harm to WestJet and WestJet Encore pilots as raised in the ULP.

As ALPA’s interim order application has been filed on an expedited basis, we hope to have the CIRB’s ruling on these issues in the coming weeks.

“Our Encore MEC supports the WestJet MEC and their actions as we stand guard over the future of our careers and protect against any erosion of our working conditions,” said First Officer Ryan Petrie, Encore MEC chairman.

ALPA files for conciliation at WestJet

WestJet pilots, through ALPA, also formally requested government assistance in labour negotiations, through the process known as conciliation.

“The federal conciliation process allows our pilot group the government intervention we need to reach our first contract,” said McFadyen. “As ALPA members, we now have the legal voice we need to say no when management violates the labour code. We will not sit idly by as management jeopardizes our careers and tries to circumvent our union.”

In a bid to negotiate the first collective agreement for WestJet pilots, ALPA and WestJet have been in bargaining since September 2017. During that time, the parties remain far apart on many issues.

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After nearly half a year of making a sincere effort, the parties have only tentatively agreed to seven sections, leaving almost two dozen sections remaining in that require management’s attention.

“We are optimistic that a federal conciliation officer will move the bargaining process along,” said McFadyen. “Our pilots have built this airline into the global carrier WestJet is today. We are proud of what we have accomplished, and believe it is time for management to successfully complete our first collective agreement in short order. We believe that with the FMCS’s assistance this goal will become a reality.”

With this request for conciliation, the Minister of Labour now has 15 days to appoint a conciliation officer.

Once appointed, a conciliation officer will work with the parties for 60 days in an effort to reach an agreement. If both parties remain at an impasse following this period, then a 21-day cooling-off period begins before the parties can engage in self-help.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents over 59,000 pilots, including the approximately 1,500 WestJet pilots and approximately 500 WestJet Encore pilots.

ALPA represents 33 Canadian and U.S. airlines, including the flightcrew members who fly for Air Georgian, Air Transat, Bearskin, Calm Air, Canadian North, Encore, First Air, Jazz Aviation, Kelowna Flightcraft, WestJet, WestJet Encore and Wasaya.

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