From left, Capt. Ryan Leier, Master Executive Council (MEC) vice chair; Capt. Mason Bowden, Council 211 F/O rep; Capt. Ryan Petrie, MEC chair; Capt. Chris Darbel, MEC secretary-treasurer; and F/O Mo Alsamak, Council 214 F/O rep, gather at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., during ALPA’s Board of Directors meeting in October 2018.
Following one of the fastest Canadian organizing drives in ALPA history, WestJet Encore pilots were very well positioned heading into 2018 to start the negotiating process with WestJet management. Pilot representatives undertook every effort to deepen their understanding of union representation and learn the best practices required to achieve their first collective agreement.
“With each passing day, it became more evident that we made the right decision in choosing ALPA, the world’s largest pilot union, to help us work with management to negotiate our first collective agreement under the Canada Labour Code,” said Capt. Ryan Petrie, the pilot group’s Master Executive Council (MEC) chair.
In February, WestJet Encore pilots joined the WestJet pilots to file an unfair labour practice (ULP) complaint and an application for an interim order with the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) against their employer. At the time, WestJet management was hiring pilots for Swoop—its new ultra-low-cost carrier—to the detriment of pilots at both WestJet and WestJet Encore. Ultimately, the CIRB ruled in ALPA’s favour, issuing an interim order against the airline, including a cease-and-desist warning regarding management’s attempted hiring practices for Swoop.
“These actions were a clear sign that our pilots are willing to stand guard over the future of our careers and to protect against any erosion of our working conditions,” Petrie observed. “Our goals for 2018 were to increase our membership and pilot engagement, and we’ve done that. Moving forward, we’ll leverage the resources and experience of ALPA to ensure that management understands that our pilots, who’ve worked tirelessly to make WestJet Encore the respected airline that it is today, will not waver from our goal of achieving an industry-leading pilot agreement.”
WestJet Encore pilots’ first contract is likely to be largely based on the WestJet pilots’ first contract, which was handed down by Arbitrator William Kaplan as 2018 came to a close. WestJet Encore pilots are fighting for improved wages, working conditions, job security, and career progression. “While we’re committed to the long-term success of the airline, we’re also working toward a fair contract that will keep the airline competitive and profitable,” said Petrie.
Though 2018 was a busy year with numerous challenges and a steep learning curve, the WestJet Encore pilots are stronger for it. As 2019 unfolds, the pilot group remains unified and focused on achieving a collective agreement and building a larger MEC structure.
“Although negotiations have proven to be challenging, we’re optimistic about making gains in the core provisions of pay, scheduling, and job security. We’re ready to leap forward in the Canadian airline industry,” acknowledged Petrie.