An Air Georgian CRJ200 is deiced on a cold Canadian winter night.
Air Georgian pilots are in the middle of endgame negotiations—the arduous, hard-fought variety. Less than two weeks after the pilots filed for conciliation in October 2018, management’s actions forced them to file an unfair labour practice complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board. The complaint detailed how the airline violated several sections of the Canada Labour Code by bargaining in bad faith and otherwise acting inappropriately toward its pilot workforce.
“It’s time for respect,” said Capt. Jim Macarthur, the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) chair. “It’s also time for this management team to recognize that threats and bullying are no way to treat employees in the modern workplace. And, most importantly, it’s time for management to recognize that we’ll stand up for our rights.”
As the conciliation process moves into early 2019, the Air Georgian pilots are backed by a $1 million grant from ALPA’s Major Contingency Fund, a war chest that provides pilots with the necessary resources to respond to threats against their jobs and the piloting profession. These funds will be available to educate travelers about the Air Georgian pilots’ fight for a fair contract. The grant will also assist the pilots with funding a strike center and holding informational picketing events should conciliation be unsuccessful.
“Air Georgian management continues to demonstrate a pattern of subterfuge and delay by first filing an uncommon application challenging the Canada Industrial Relations Board’s prior order that split employees into three separate unionized workforces, which delayed the pilots’ start of negotiations by seven months,” Macarthur noted. “Our challenges are compounded by the fact that since negotiations began, management only made itself available for approximately 10 days during nine months of negotiations.”
Throughout December, the MEC conducted a number of outreach activities to the pilot group, including regular all-pilot communications, all-pilot meetings, and online initiatives urging pilots to send contract questions to the MEC and Negotiating Committee to receive answers in real time. At the same time, the MEC was continuing regular negotiations during conciliation, which is set to expire early in 2019.
“We’re committed to reaching a fair agreement that will bring our pilots’ pay, benefits, and work rules closer in line with those of our industry peers,” said Macarthur. “We expect management leaders to join us at the table and to bargain in good faith. We also expect them to negotiate a contract that truly reflects our commitment to the airline. As Air Georgian pilots, we’ve invested our careers in our airline. And our track record shows we’ve done everything we can to help it succeed.”
The pilot group joined ALPA two years ago, with 85 percent of eligible pilots participating in the representation election, and 99 percent voting in favour of joining the Association. This sent a clear message that Air Georgian pilots recognized the importance of being members of the world’s largest and most influential pilots’ union. The other employee groups sent similar messages by voting for two other unions to best represent their respective needs, including the flight attendants who ratified a three-year contract in October 2018.
Since the pilots began the process to join ALPA, the airline has on multiple occasions challenged the Canada Industrial Relations Board’s certification of ALPA as the bargaining representative for the group. The airline fought the board’s decision with a lengthy appeal. However, the MEC, backed by ALPA’s vast resources, succeeded in challenging the company’s application for reconsideration at the board.
The pilots’ fight for a fair agreement continues, and it’s past time for management to show them the respect they’ve earned.