Jazz Aviation pilots began 2015 in a far different position than where they were at the end of 2014. As the year closed, the pilots were in endgame negotiations with the company for a new agreement. Less than a month later, they ratified that agreement by the largest margin in the pilot group’s history. That contract significantly changed the future for the airline and its pilots.
Jazz—the largest fee-for-departure carrier for Air Canada—serves more than 9.9 million passengers each year and flies to more domestic destinations than any other Canadian airline.
Before beginning negotiations, the pilots and the company agreed to move toward a business model that was more in line with that of other Air Canada Express carriers. The pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) Negotiating Committee and the company reached a tentative agreement that was as innovative as it was far-reaching.
On Jan. 13, 2015, the MEC agreed in principle to a 10-year agreement that contains a career-progression mechanism for Jazz pilots to move to Air Canada while also including substantial improvements and protections for those pilots who chose to remain at Jazz. In a cross-country tour spanning two weeks, the MEC, Negotiating Committee, and Communications Committee visited the four pilot bases in Montréal, Qué.; Toronto, Ont.; Calgary, Alb.; and Vancouver, B.C.
While all Jazz pilots were encouraged to attend the road shows in person, the MEC taped the road shows and put each one online for later viewing, creating a resource of questions and answers.
“If schedules prevented a pilot from attending a road show, we wanted to make sure that questions were answered and concerns addressed,” said Capt. Claude Buraglia, the pilots’ MEC chairman. “Company representatives were also on hand to explain in detail the pilot mobility agreement (PMA) negotiated with Air Canada. It was vital that each pilot was given every opportunity to get information in every way possible.”
The PMA was essential to Jazz’s capacity-purchase agreement (CPA) with Air Canada being extended through 2025. Jazz pilots who added their name to the PMA list agreed to move to Air Canada. In return, Air Canada agreed to allocate at least 80 percent of its hiring to names on that list until the full list was exhausted. For the CPA to take effect, at least 625 Jazz pilots had to agree to be on the PMA list. The reality was that the Jazz pilots were considering an agreement in principle at their own airline, while at the same time they were asked to consider a potential future at another.
However, going from a captain at Jazz to a first officer at Air Canada would entail a significant reduction in pay. To compensate, the contract included a flow incentive payment (FIP), which would ease the difference in pay for the first four years. If the pilot accepted a job offer from Air Canada, the FIP pays out over four years by augmenting the pilot’s Air Canada salary. If the pilot declined the employment offer but agreed to retire from Jazz, the pilot could take the FIP as a retirement incentive.
On January 29, the vote closed with nearly all Jazz pilots participating in the ballot, and more than 95 percent of those voting were in favor of ratification. Just three days later, the agreement took effect. Only eight months after signing the agreement, Jazz reaped the benefits as it was awarded 10 more aircraft by Air Canada.
The work, however, is far from done. The contract, though it spans 10 years, incorporates three amendable periods. The first amendable period occurs this year, so the Negotiating Committee will be exploring additions and modifications to the agreement. “It would seem that after signing a 10-year agreement, we could rest on our laurels for a bit,” said Buraglia. “But nothing could be further from the truth. Our commitment to protecting and enhancing the careers of every Jazz pilot remains, and we continue to look for new opportunities to do so.”