Wasaya Pilots
A Wasaya Dash 8 is prepped for a morning flight out of Thunder Bay, Ont.

As 2016 began, Wasaya pilots had just served notice to the company that it was time to bargain for their third contract on the property. For most pilot groups, this would entail negotiating committees planning for months in advance and extended time at the bargaining table. After all, even fast-tracked negotiations can take months, while others can take much longer.

Just 11 days. That’s how long it took Wasaya pilots and management to come to an agreement. The two sides used interest-based negotiating (IBN) as opposed to positional bargaining. In IBN, the two sides start with a problem they want to solve, rather than making different proposals, and work together to find the best solution for everyone. For IBN to work, and to work in as short a time as 11 days, there must be an ample amount of trust going into negotiations.

For Wasaya pilots, that trust has been building over the past few years as the company worked to completely restructure its operations. In 2014, amid concerns of profitability, the airline hired an outside firm to facilitate the process. This past summer, the company announced that it was implementing the final part of the restructuring effort. This was quickly followed in July by court approval of the plans. While the restructuring was taking place, Wasaya gained a new president-CEO, Michael Rodyniuk, and a new board of directors.

“We have a very productive relationship with our upper management,” said Capt. James Harding, the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) chairman. “When your company is in the middle of significant change, you don’t know where you’ll eventually end up. We were fortunate that we have been able to build such a mutually beneficial relationship with our company’s leaders.”

In October, just three months after the court approved the final steps of the restructure, the pilot group and the company reached a tentative agreement, which the pilots voted to ratify.

The new contract, which went into effect immediately upon ratification, provides significant improvements for the pilots, including substantial pay increases, a reduction in work schedules, and an increase in vacation time.

“It’s almost a twofold pay increase,” said Harding. “Pilots got a raise in addition to working fewer days. It’s a win-win deal for the pilot group.”

The pilots continue to work closely with management to fully implement the new agreement, including addressing retro pay. In addition to the new pilot contract on the property, the company has also been bringing on new Dash 8s and has committed to switching from the Hawker Siddeley to a Dash freighter this year. The airline also has plans to address a staffing shortage.

As part of the staffing solution, Wasaya and Jazz Aviation signed a letter of intent at the end of 2016 for a pathway program that would give pilots straight out of college the opportunity to be hired at Wasaya. After completing the requisite amount of time at Wasaya, these pilots would be able to move to Jazz Aviation and eventually to Air Canada. “The pathway program, which will help Wasaya address pilot turnover and attract new-hire pilots, was the result of a considerable amount of work by the Wasaya and Jazz Aviation MECs and both companies’ management teams,” Harding acknowledged.

“This airline has changed so much over just the last few years. We were nearing bankruptcy—and instead, we’re seeing consistent growth and new opportunities,” noted Harding. “This is due in large part to our senior management personnel and their commitment to work with ALPA and our pilot group. We’ve rewritten our story and given it a brighter future.”