Release #: WJA 23.03
May 15, 2023
WestJet Pilots File 72-Hour Strike Notice
Company Refuses to Recognize Pilots’ Needs
Calgary, AB—At 8:00 p.m., May 15, WestJet pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), issued a 72-hour strike notice to WestJet management and the government. This starts the clock on a 72-hour countdown to negotiate a fair and equitable contract, before the pilots can legally utilize all the options available to them under the Canada Labour Code.
The union could have filed the notice over the weekend, but in a bid to keep the airline operating, agreed to extend negotiations. This sign of good faith was to allow enough time to review additional proposals put forth by both parties. While progress was made on most non-cost items, both sides have been unable to reach an agreement that will serve the best interests of all parties involved.
“After nine months of negotiating, management still fails to understand today’s labour market conditions, leading to a mass exodus of our pilots in search of better work opportunities, and more will follow if this agreement does not meet our pilots’ needs,” said Capt. Bernard Lewall, chair of the WestJet ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC). “Without the economic and job security improvements our pilots require, WestJet will be parking planes, as they will not have enough pilots to operate them or accomplish its own growth strategy.”
As of 3:00 a.m. MT on May 19, the WestJet pilots plan to begin lawful job action, which could include grounding all aircraft and effectively shutting down operations.
“Flight disruptions are never an ideal outcome, especially given the tremendous support our guests have shown us, and we want to continue being a major contributor to our company’s success by helping WestJet realize its growth strategy,” noted Lewall. “However, WestJet pilots will withdraw our services to secure a contract that will fix many of the airline’s labour problems and make it a career destination for pilots once again.”
On average, a WestJet Group of Companies pilot leaves every 18 hours—mostly to fly for WestJet’s competitors. Negotiators continue to make proposals that will go a long way to rectifying WestJet’s pilot attraction and retention crisis by seeking better job security, industry-standard pay, and more flexible schedules to allow for a better work life balance—consistent with collective agreements that other ALPA-represented pilot groups are signing with their employers. ALPA’s more than 69,000 pilots stand behind the WestJet pilots as they ready themselves for possible legal job action.
“We are hopeful today’s strike notice filing will provide management with the incentive to recognize just how dire the situation is and reach an agreement with us,” continued Lewall. “That’s why we will continue to make our negotiators available 24/7 during the remainder of the 72-hour strike notice period.
CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703-481-4440 or Media@alpa.org