A WestJet Encore Q400 NextGen departs from Comox Airport in British Columbia.
ALPA’s organizing efforts in Canada were strong in 2017, and WestJet Encore was the third Canadian pilot group to seek ALPA representation. The pilots joined the Association in November, following the path of fellow Canadian carriers Air Georgian and WestJet Airlines, Encore’s own sister company, earlier in the year.
The journey began over the summer when a group of WestJet Encore pilot representatives met with ALPA to discuss union representation. After securing contact information and building a strong Organizing Committee, the pilots collected membership cards from a majority of pilots in one of the fastest Canadian organizing drives in ALPA history.
“WestJet Encore pilots made it clear that they wanted a legally recognized trade union representing us and that that union be ALPA, the world’s largest pilots’ union, to help us work with management to negotiate and deliver our first collective agreement under the Canada Labour Code,” said F/O Ryan Petrie, the pilot group’s interim Master Executive Council (MEC) chairman.
On November 1, ALPA filed an application with the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB). The WestJet Encore pilot group—armed with membership cards and newly passed legislation governing union organizing (Bill C-4)—was notified approximately four weeks later on November 29 that the CIRB completed its investigation and authorized ALPA as the pilots’ bargaining representative.
“This was the announcement we were waiting for,” noted Petrie. “Encore pilots have played a vital role in the success of our company, and we look forward to building our relationship with management, overcoming the growing pains of being certified, and putting ALPA’s abundant resources to use so that we gain a stronger voice in the decisions that impact our careers and collective future.”
In December, the pilots’ temporary Local Executive Council representatives were introduced to ALPA staff to begin building relationships and elected temporary MEC officers at their first meeting in Ottawa, Ont. Elected along with Petrie were Capt. Robert Bergeron as MEC vice chairman and Capt. Ted Hebert as MEC secretary-treasurer. The officers immediately began their temporary terms. They spent the remainder of December membership building and establishing their internal union structure.
“Our immediate goal for 2018 is increasing our membership and securing its involvement, followed by our longer-term goal for the year of securing a collective agreement that meets the needs of our pilots,” Petrie observed. “It’s the view of the pilots who have stepped up to serve as union volunteers that we have a responsibility to create a better future for all WestJet Encore pilots, which we’ll achieve through a well-functioning MEC and committee structure and securing our first collective agreement.”
The MEC undoubtedly has a busy year ahead, and the real work is just beginning. At the end of 2017, ALPA sent WestJet Encore a notice to bargain, which triggers a duty for both the labour group and the employer to schedule bargaining meetings under the Canada Labour Code.
“In 2018, we hope to make solid progress toward a contract. We also hope that our company’s two new endeavours—WestJet Link and Swoop—will be as profitable and successful as the company forecasts but not by degrading our job security or working conditions,” said Petrie.
Immediately on the horizon are elections for permanent MEC representatives, which will be held in early 2018.