WestJet pilots issue 72-hour strike notice, poised to begin job action Friday
WestJet says it will lock out the airline’s pilots after their union sent a 72-hour strike notice to the company and the government on Monday night, setting the stage for a work stoppage just ahead of the May long weekend.
In a news release sent to CBC News, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said that as of 3 a.m. on May 19, pilots plan to begin legal industrial action, which could include grounding all aircraft and effectively shutting down operations.
WestJet Group said the layoffs could happen as early as 3 a.m. Friday. WestJet said in a statement that issuing a lockout notice does not mean a layoff will occur.
However, the airline has begun preparing to operate a reduced schedule, proactively manage changes and cancellations, and provide flexible change and cancellation options for people who want to change their plans.
“It is our responsibility to ensure the security and complete control of our network at all times to minimize the risk of disruption to our guests, crew and aircraft,” said WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroch.
“We sincerely regret the inconvenience and uncertainty this continues to cause our guests.”
About 1,850 WestJet pilots with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) are ready to strike. Some of the issues they say still need to be resolved include pay, job security and scheduling.
“After nine months of negotiations, management still cannot understand today’s labor market conditions, which is leading to a mass exodus of our pilots in search of better job opportunities,” said Capt. Bernard Leval, WestJet ALPA Master Executive Council Chair. .
“More will follow if this agreement does not meet the needs of our pilots.”
Negotiations between WestJet and the pilots’ union began in September. Last month, pilots voted in favor of a strike mandate.
Von Hoensbroch said he was disappointed the pilots went on strike, saying the company’s offer would have made the pilots “by far the best paid in Canada.”
In a post on Twitter Monday night, he said he had personally joined the bargaining table and was committed to reaching a reasonable deal.
We regret that @WestJetALPA the union sent a strike notice. Our offer is our value @WestJet: would make the pilots the highest paid pilots in Canada. As the union maintains unreasonable expectations, we see no alternative to shutting them down as of Friday 🥲https://t.co/KaNxj2GjoC
“As the union maintains unreasonable expectations, we see no alternative to closing them from Friday,” von Hohensbroch wrote on Twitter.
If flight delays or cancellations occur, affected guests will be refunded or re-accommodated as necessary, WestJet said.
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