An Air Transat A330-200 at Vancouver International Airport is loaded for its flight to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.
In 2016, the Air Transat pilot group was poised to begin a strike after having been at the bargaining table for more than a year. However, the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) leaders and Negotiating Committee were able to come to terms with management to reach a fair contract and avoid a strike just days before the height of Canada’s spring break travel season that begins in February. Following a successful ratification vote, the MEC is now hard at work implementing the new five-year collective agreement.
“Despite the positive outcome of our new contract, there’s continued work that needs to occur to better address some of the concerns our pilots are voicing,” said Capt. Patrice Roy, the pilots’ MEC chairman. “But we’re confident that a stronger and successful relationship between our pilot group and management will develop following this successful pilot ratification, as our collective goal is bettering our airline.”
When the airline industry went through financial turbulence in 2012, the pilot group proved its commitment to the company by agreeing to a pay freeze in exchange for profit sharing. Crewmembers took a leap of faith, hoping that with management and labour working together, the carrier could reverse its misfortune. This hedging paid off as parent company Transat A.T., Inc. announced revenues of $3.8 billion for 2014 and $3.6 billion for 2015.
“The airline needed money, and management came to the employees for assistance,” Roy said. “With our help, Air Transat remained profitable through the tough times the company faced. In turn, we demanded that 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.”
Air Transat recently added two new A330s and plans to add two more this summer. In addition, the airline maintains three A330s on wet- and damp-lease in Warsaw, Poland; Paris, France; and Fort de France, Martinique. Management is also in talks to purchase between 9 and 12 A321neoLRs to replace aging A310s. And with the addition of another B-737, the airline now operates a total of seven permanent B-737s, with 12 more operating during the winter season.
In 2017, the pilots will continue to work with management and ALPA’s Government Affairs Department to ensure compliance with the new rules surrounding Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP). Due in large part to ALPA’s efforts, Parliament mandated in 2014 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. The TFWP had allowed Air Transat’s direct Canadian competitors to deploy temporary foreign workers to meet seasonal demands.
“We will also continue to push for new rules regarding the issuance of foreign license validation certificates, which pilots working in Canada are required to have if they don’t possess a Canadian pilots license,” remarked Roy, who’s optimistic that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the present Liberal government will be more respectful of Canadian workers’ rights than the previous Conservative government under Stephen Harper.
Regarding the outlook for the coming year, Roy acknowledged that “with 30 additional pilots being hired, the pilot group is optimistic and looks forward to working with management to help the airline prosper and grow.”