A Perimeter Fairchild Metro III in Thompson, Man. Photo: F/O Stephen Chan (Perimeter)

After more than three years of delay tactics in negotiations, pilot grievances piling up, and management’s and the airlines owner’s—Exchange Income Corporation (EIC)—general lack of respect and disregard for the current contract, Perimeter Aviation pilots are considering moving forward with a strike vote this year.

With the merger of Perimeter and Bearskin Airlines in 2018, Bearskin became a subsidiary brand operating under the Perimeter name. Two years later, in early 2020, Perimeter and Bearskin pilots began joint collective bargaining negotiations, but the pace of bargaining significantly slowed during the COVID pandemic. With limited face-to-face interaction and more virtual discussions throughout 2020 and 2021, both groups remained optimistic about the future and achieving a collective bargaining agreement.

In 2022, Perimeter pilots continued working with management to achieve their contract goals and ensure stability for the airline. Throughout negotiations, pilot leaders have stated that it’s essential for the airline to focus on the proper level of scheduling/staffing and to comply with the pilots’ current collective agreement. However, there remain serious problems with pilot retention and hiring given the outdated pay rates and lack of real quality-of-life protections.

Negotiations continued at a relatively slow pace through the latter part of the year as managers canceled several meetings at the last minute, causing further delays. Based on the complex negotiations that dragged on for more than two years between EIC-owned PAL Airlines and its pilots, this behavior isn’t surprising to the Perimeter pilot group. Despite negotiations moving slowly, the pilots continue to demonstrate unity and determination on their path to achieving a joint collective agreement—and to enlist all means to do so, even a strike.

“Management held firm in its position that we had no right to strike because the collective bargaining process under the Canada Labour Code bound ALPA by the original Canada Industrial Relations Board [CIRB] consolidation order from 2019,” said Capt. Riley Box, the pilots’ MEC chair. “We strongly disagreed with management’s position and were vindicated when in October the CIRB sided with us.”

The CIRB stated that it wouldn’t interfere with either party’s right to engage in a strike, a lockout, or any other rights applicable to the parties under the Canada Labour Code (CLC).

As a result, the pilots are legally able to conduct a strike vote, which if passed, would enable them to engage in a strike after giving 72 hours’ notice. “Management has consistently failed to recognize our hard work and professionalism and continues to do so by not agreeing to the industry-standard collective agreement that we’ve earned—despite EIC earning record profits,” Box commented. “Adding further insult to injury, management continues insisting that virtually all the carrier’s routes constitute an essential service that pilots would still be required to operate during a strike. Management’s views on this subject are clearly outside the CLC and legal jurisprudence and are designed to frustrate our legal rights,” Box remarked.

EIC posted its best quarterly results in the company’s history during the last quarter of 2022, generating a record quarterly high revenue of $587 million—an increase of $187 million or 47 percent—thanks primarily to the efforts of its highly trained and skilled pilots and other employees.

“The MEC is now announcing that a strike vote is imminent but intends to remain transparent regarding all available options,” said Box. “In the event that we call a strike vote, a clear message will be sent to management, EIC, and Perimeter’s customers that our Negotiating Committee has the full support of the pilot group. We won’t tolerate or accept anything less than a contract that recognizes our contributions to the airline and helps maintain our company’s longer-term success through improved pilot retention and hiring.”