Pivot Airlines (Formerly Air Georgian)

An Air Georgian CRJ200 on approach to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

When the calendar turned to Jan. 1, 2019, Air Georgian pilots could not have foreseen what was to come. While in the midst of contract negotiations that resulted in a conciliation filing and an unfair labour practice complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board—alleging the airline violated several sections of the Canada Labour Code by bargaining in bad faith—came news that would surprise everyone.

Almost a year ago to date, Jazz Aviation and Air Canada announced that they had tentatively agreed to extend their capacity purchase agreement to 2035. Included in this deal was the transitioning of all Air Georgian flying back to the Jazz operation.

Capt. Jim Macarthur, who at that time was the pilots’ Master Executive Council (MEC) chair, said, “Hearing the news that the Jazz MEC and Jazz Aviation had negotiated terms to transition Air Georgian pilots on our seniority list to their operation is a positive step. This paves the way for more than 85 percent of our pilots to come to an agreement on a transition to Jazz, and I’m confident our pilots will be treated fairly and respectfully [by Jazz Aviation] during the transition.”

Unfortunately the process didn’t move as smoothly as anticipated. In September, 12 pilots received notice from Air Georgian that they were deemed “surplus” and were identified for transition to Jazz. While those who chose to transition to Jazz knew they’d be receiving a letter from management, included in the list were the MEC chair, the Grievance and Discipline Committee chair and a member of that committee, and a Negotiating Committee member. And three were captains—even though Jazz initially sought only 12 first officers.

Air Georgian pilots viewed management’s actions as an attempt to undermine the union by getting rid of staunch ALPA volunteers. Terminating the employment of pilot volunteers and sending them to Jazz out of seniority order had significant repercussions for the pilot group.

As a result, the MEC was placed into custodianship, with Capt. Tim Perry, ALPA Canada Board president, appointed the group’s custodian, and ALPA’s Legal Department filed an unfair labour practice complaint against management over its effort to undermine the union.

In his first communications to the pilots, Perry stated, “In my role as custodian, my primary objective is to stabilize the labour-management situation at Air Georgian. I’ll be appointing a group of ALPA pilot volunteers—hopefully that reside close to Toronto—who’ll devote their time to bettering the situation for your pilot group.” He added, “Equally importantly, we must ensure that pilots transitioning to Jazz Aviation have the information needed to understand when and how they transition and what’s expected of them.”

Since his appointment as custodian, Perry has been busy engaging with management over bringing pilots in for disciplinary action. He’s actively recruited pilot volunteers to handle these matters and to process grievances and move them to arbitration so that pilots receive their rightful remedies or have their disciplinary matters properly adjudicated. Perry has also been working to empanel a new Negotiating Committee to review the pilot group’s accomplishments in 2019 and determine a path forward for the pilots who may continue their employment at Air Georgian.

Moving forward, depending on Air Georgian’s business plans, Perry intends to bring the pilot group out of custodianship once a large enough pool of volunteers is in place to lead the pilot group.

Looking ahead to 2020, Air Georgian pilots can continue to expect world-class ALPA representation while their new Negotiating Committee formulates a bargaining plan for future negotiations.