In February 2016, the Air Transat Master Executive Council (MEC) reached a tentative agreement with Air Transat management on a new five-year pilot contract. Union leaders and the airline came to terms after more than a year of direct negotiations and federal conciliation and following the expiration of the current collective agreement on April 30, 2015. The new agreement was approved by a member vote in March 2016.
“We hope the open discussions that have taken place as part of this process will set the stage for constructive dialogue between our pilots and Air Transat leadership going forward,” said Capt. Patrice Roy, the pilots’ MEC chairman. “Despite the positive outcome, there is continued work that needs to take place to better understand some of the issues for our pilot group, and we can now turn our efforts to that goal. We are confident that a stronger and successful relationship between both parties is in the process of being developed.”
Only a year ago, it seemed that short-term sacrifices were paying off for the Air Transat crewmembers, who began contract negotiations in February 2015. “The airline needed money, and management came to the employees for help,” Roy said. “We took a leap of faith, hoping that with management and labour working together, the carrier could reverse its misfortune.” The crewmembers agreed to a pay freeze in exchange for profit sharing. This hedging paid off as parent company Transat A.T., Inc. announced revenues of $3.8 billion for 2014 and $3.6 for 2015.
“It’s with our help that Air Transat remained profitable through the tough times the company faced,” said Roy. “We demanded management invest in our crewmembers the same way it’s invested in other Air Transat employees and executives by bringing us to parity within the industry and at levels comparable to our direct competitors.”
Also in 2015, the MEC continued to work closely with management to lobby against Canada’s controversial Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which allowed Air Transat’s direct Canadian competitors to deploy temporary foreign workers to meet seasonal demands. In July 2014, Parliament mandated that Canadian airlines would no longer be allowed to staff seasonal variations in fleet capacity with foreign pilots when unemployed Canadian pilots are available for hire.
“Even though the government instituted these changes regarding foreign workers, some carriers used the program in 2014, which gave them an unfair advantage,” acknowledged Roy. “This winter, however, the government refused all temporary foreign workers, saying jobs must be offered to Canadians first. We easily demonstrated to the regulators that Canada had enough qualified pilots to fill those positions.”