WestJet Pilots Picketing at Canadian Airports As Strike Deadline Looms

File Photo via Twitter.com / WestJet ALPA Pilots

With the countdown to legal strike action underway and no deal in place with WestJet, the union representing the airline's pilots has confirmed it's picketing at Canada's busiest airports Monday, 08MAY.

According to Simpleflying, picketing by up to 1600 uniformed pilots is taking place at YVR, YYZ and YYC.

As Open Jaw has reported, 1,850 WestJet and Swoop pilots who are ALPA members have been negotiating a new contract since fall of 2022.

Earlier this year, the union requested federal mediation, which failed to result in a deal, and now, the two sides are in a 'cooling off period.' When that cooling off period expires 13MAY, if there's still no deal, the union will be in a position to issue a 72-hour strike notice - which means a strike could happen by 16MAY.  In APR, pilots already voted in favour of walking off the job.

Open Jaw reported on 03MAY that ALPA says it has committed to further meetings in Toronto from 08-16MAY, with Monday's airport pickets adding pressure on the airline.

ALPA and its pilot members reportedly continue to push for a “North American / industry-standard contract,” which would narrow the gap between wages at WestJet and other airlines in North America.

But as CBC quoted WestJet’s CEO saying in APR that there’s no way Canadian pilots are in a position to get the same terms as recent, rich new pilot deals reached in the U.S.

"Pilots dream about U.S. wages. The union keeps on repeating that all they want is a standard North American contract," Alexis von Hoensbroech reportedly said. "But the U.S. is a totally different market."

However, there's been no sign that the union is backing down from that demand.

Even without a strike, labour issues appear to already be taking a toll on WestJet pilots, who are reportedly already departing the airline.

“They still fail to understand today’s labour market conditions and it’s leading to a mass exodus of our professional pilots,” ALPA exec Jason Roberts told the Vancouver Sun. “On average, a WestJet pilot is leaving our airline every 18 hours.”

WestJet's CEO acknowledged "high attrition. That's certainly an impact of the current situation." But he also blamed recruitment by new Canadian airlines, and expressed optimism that the airline and pilots would come to a new deal -  without a strike - and with "meaningful improvements to their contract."

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