The sun sets behind a Calm Air ATR 42.
As 2018 begins, the pilots of Calm Air are preparing to begin bargaining for a new collective agreement with management ―a process that the pilot group believes will result in gains for both the pilots and the airline.
In March of last year, Calm Air pilots elected new Master Executive Council (MEC) officers whose terms began in May. Capt. Brendan Potter, MEC chairman; Capt. Matt Tinker, MEC vice chairman; and Capt. Neal Gouriluk, MEC secretary-treasurer, then began their MEC duties by meeting with ALPA staff to develop a strategic plan and short- and long-term goals and objectives for the pilot group and to prepare for 2018 contract negotiations.
On December 31, a notice to bargain was sent to management, marking the week of January 20 as the official start of negotiations. “Working closely with ALPA’s Canada Board officers, developing a game plan with our ALPA staff members, and eventually using interest-based negotiations, we’ll be well prepared to address our pilots’ concerns and goals during our upcoming negotiations,” said Potter. “We expect a very civil process that should take just a few months, not a number of years that some pilot groups have experienced. We expect a win-win resolution for both the pilots and the company.”
While Calm Air has lost flying due to its cargo clients needing fewer charters, the loss has been offset by an increase in transporting freight for another cargo client. The airline operates from bases in Thompson and Winnipeg in Manitoba, along with a hub in Rankin Inlet in Nunavut. The pilots provide scheduled passenger and regular cargo service to more than 20 communities in Canada’s northern and central provinces, some of the remotest locations on the globe. Calm Air is the only direct-service air carrier from Manitoba’s northern cities to Winnipeg. It also provides scheduled service to communities in Nunavut as far north as the Arctic Circle. A vital lifeline to many communities, most of the airline’s flights also carry household goods, such as food, fuel, and supplies. A typical flight can carry off-road vehicles, building supplies, and bulk gas to isolated communities that semitrailer trucks are unable to reach.
Due to the challenging nature of Calm Air’s operations, the airline has been facing increased pilot attrition. “The operational environment of our airline is a challenging one for pilots with families. As such, the morale of our pilots isn’t what it should be,” said Capt. Jeffrey Jacobs, who was elected MEC vice chairman on December 1 after the previous vice chairman left the airline in October. Earlier in the year, the MEC’s secretary-treasurer left for another airline and was replaced by Capt. Trevor Wilcox. “In addition, some of our pilots who are retiring or moving on to other carriers―many who’ve been with Calm Air for years―are being replaced by a much younger generation of pilots, shifting the demographics of our group,” noted Jacobs. “With this in mind, we’re having to change and adapt to how these pilots communicate. It’s a learning process for all involved, and it will take some time. But ultimately, it’s worth the investment.”
This year will be an important one for Calm Air pilots. But as a result of outstanding planning and guidance, it promises to be a springboard to greater things ahead.