Sunwing Denies Bargaining in Bad Faith with Pilots Prior to WestJet Deal

SunwingSunwing has responded to media reports, including those in Open Jaw, about a Labour Board complaint filed by Unifor on behalf of Sunwing pilots.

The airline's statement, released on 06JUL, says the company "has reviewed" Unifor Local 7378's recent complaint to the Canadian Industrial Relations Board, and that it is "without merit."

"Sunwing Airlines bargained in good faith with pilots to reach (a) fair agreement," the statement to media says, adding that the pilot union’s "claim that Sunwing was sold to WestJet shortly after a renewal collective agreement was signed with its pilots in early 2021 is not true."

"The complaint is without merit, out of time and will be vigorously defended."

As Open Jaw reported, Sunwing's pilots filed a bad faith complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board on Monday, 04JUL.

The pilots allege the airline bargained in bad faith during a recent round of negotiations because Sunwing already knew the company was being sold to WestJet.

"Despite management reassurances (to bargaining pilots) that the company was not a candidate for a sale or merger, Sunwing was sold to WestJet shortly after the collective agreement was signed – a huge slap in the face," said Scott Doherty, Unifor's Executive Assistant to the National President.

Sunwing's pilots "made several concessions with the understanding the pandemic had placed major financial pressures on the airline. It's not only the employer's duty to bargain in good faith – it's the law," said Barret Armann, President of Unifor Local 7378, the union that represents 452 Sunwing pilots.

Unifor pointed out that the Canada Labour Code requires parties to a collective agreement to "bargain in good faith, including to answer honestly whether it will likely implement changes during the term of a proposed agreement that may have significant impact on the bargaining unit."

"Had this sale been transparent during bargaining, we could have pushed to include job security language in case of acquisitions," said a union rep.

Unifor and Sunwing ratified a four-year deal based on those negotiations on 12FEB 2021.

On 02 MAR 2022, Sunwing and WestJet announced that WestJet would be buying Sunwing, pending regulatory approvals.

In Sunwing's response to the allegations, it says the agreement it reached with its pilots "was fair and reasonable."

The airline added, "The renewal collective agreement was ratified by an overwhelming percentage of the union members voting on February 12, 2021. More than one year later, on March 2, 2022, WestJet announced an agreement under which the WestJet Group of Companies would acquire Sunwing Vacations and Sunwing Airlines. The proposed transaction remains conditional upon regulatory approval."

Its statement concluded with a conciliatory note: "Sunwing Airlines values all of its employees, who are integral to helping make our customers’ vacation dreams come true. Our pilots are vital to our operations. Sunwing Airlines will continue to promote positive labour relations in good faith as more of our customers return to travel and we continue to rebound from the pandemic."


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