As ALPA’s newest Canadian pilot group, PAL Aerospace pilots joined the Association last summer, bringing more than 50 pilots to ALPA’s ranks, but not without an unusual amount of pushback.
On the same day the pilots filed their membership cards with the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB), which maintains jurisdiction over both unfair labour practice (ULP) claims and union certification, ALPA filed a ULP complaint against the company for engaging in arguably illegal union-busting tactics during the organizing campaign. Despite the company’s efforts, on July 22, the CIRB certified ALPA as the pilots’ trade union. The ULP has been placed in abeyance while the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) considers its disposition in a still labour-unfriendly environment.
A subsidiary of the Exchange Income Corporation (EIC) family of companies, PAL Aerospace operates intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; executive charters; air ambulance; and search-and-rescue operations in Canada, the Americas, and the Caribbean.
“My office is a King Air B200 cockpit flying as low as 100 feet above the Atlantic tracking what’s left of the 400 endangered North Atlantic Right Whales,” said Capt. Jack Parlee, the pilots’ interim captain representative and temporary MEC chair. “That includes ocean surveillance during which we frequently fly in and out of diverse conditions, including wind and fog, supporting conservation, protection, and search-and-rescue operations.”
The carrier is divided into eight bases and divisions, operating different aircraft for various clients. With these unique interests and equipment specifications in mind, one of the group’s first tasks was to set up a Contract Study Committee with a volunteer pilot representative from each of the carrier’s operations, including Curacao, Campbell River Airborne Maritime Surveillance Division (AMSD), Halifax Air Ambulance, Halifax AMSD and Force Multiplier™, Halifax Managed Aircraft and Charters, St. John’s AMSD, St. John’s Air Ambulance, and St. John’s Managed Aircraft and Charters.
“By design of our EIC PAL Group business model, PAL Aerospace pilots are supporting safe, reliable, and courteous revenue operations, which has delivered continuous increases to EIC’s shareholders’ equity,” Parlee remarked. EIC owns PAL Aerospace, along with Bearskin, Calm Air, Perimeter, and PAL Airlines and has ownership interests in Air Borealis and Wasaya. Moving forward, the PAL Aerospace pilots will establish pilot committees and work with ALPA’s expert staff and vast resources to begin negotiations for a first collective agreement. PAL Aerospace will join Bearskin, Perimeter, PAL Airlines, and Air Borealis in ongoing contract negotiations, which will require EIC’s utmost attention.
In addition to preparing for upcoming negotiations, the MEC and pilot volunteers are also dealing with a number of operational issues. Notably, management introduced new King Airs into the carrier’s fleet that have entirely new, modern avionics without providing the necessary differences training and appropriate onboard paper manuals and checklists for this substantially different cockpit. In addition, management has failed to respond to the now months-old safety management system report and has essentially swept the pilot group’s complaints under the rug. The MEC plans to address these and other issues through the assistance of regulators and other governmental agencies.
“While management ran an aggressive antiunion campaign against our organizing efforts, it’s time to recognize that ALPA is here and that the company’s airlines are becoming more unionized,” said F/O Tim Perry, ALPA Canada president. “Management can now either set a positive tone and work cooperatively with its unionized labour groups or deal with the consequences of labour disharmony and the protections provided under the Canada Labour Code. We hope it’s the former because when labour and management work together, we accomplish so much more and build better companies in the long-term.”
In addition to surveillance and air ambulance, PAL Aerospace operates domestic and international corporate jet and turboprop charters flying Citation 10, Citation 550, Gulf Stream 6, Dash 8-100/-300, King Air 350, King Air B200 G1000, and King Air BE20 aircraft.