A WestJet B-737 taxies to the gate at Calgary International Airport in Alberta.

WestJet pilots are making history. The group voted to join ALPA in May of last year, and just a few months later had already begun scheduled contract negotiations for the airline’s first-ever collective agreement.

“So far, we have made tremendous progress with ALPA’s guidance and support,” said Capt. Rob
McFadyen, the WestJet pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) chairman. McFadyen, along with F/O Tim Perry, the MEC vice chairman, and Capt. Christina Thomson, the MEC secretary-treasurer, are keenly focused on obtaining a market-rate contract for the pilot group and successfully partnering with WestJet management to help grow the airline.

“After investing time in this airline, pilots would prefer not to leave WestJet. But they are and will continue to do so as long as our contract is not up to par with our peers,” McFadyen pointed out. “We can be an invaluable asset in helping to grow this airline, but we must have a collective agreement that reflects the skills and worth we bring to WestJet.”

Since joining ALPA, the MEC has undergone leadership training, held its first-ever Family Awareness event, set up a bargaining schedule with the company, developed a solid strategic plan, and identified the pilot group’s three main bargaining priorities.

“Our pilots have spoken, and their mandate is clear: all WestJet flying should be done by WestJet pilots, we expect compensation that reflects our true value, and we need general improvements to our working rules,” McFadyen said.

The pilots have also made clear their concerns regarding the company’s establishment of Swoop, the airline’s ultra-low-cost carrier, and the recent announcement of additional outsourcing to Pacific Coastal Airlines under the WestJet Link moniker, through a capacity purchase agreement.

“There are many questions about how the announcement of Swoop will affect our pilots and their families,” acknowledged McFadyen. “But one thing is certain: we will remain united against any attempt to work around what should be our flying under the WestJet umbrella. It does not matter what we have in our contract if we cannot protect our careers.”

Looking to the year ahead, the MEC is focused on completing collective bargaining in a timely manner. However, the ultimate question is whether management will work with the WestJet pilots and bargain in good faith to meet the MEC’s realistic objectives. “Through honesty and integrity, we will work to forge the mutual trust that is required to achieve a successful outcome for both our pilots and WestJet airlines. It is our joint responsibility with management to ensure that we reach a deal here at the bargaining table,” McFadyen said.

WestJet, Canada’s second-largest major airline, has hubs in Vancouver, B.C.; Calgary, Alb.; and Toronto, Ont., and headquarters in Calgary. WestJet pilots operate an average of 425 flights per day with service to 150 destinations in Canada, the United States, Europe, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.