Pilots at Calgary’s WestJet are gearing up for another attempt to unionize.
The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) made the announcement on the same day that WestJet indicated its plan to launch an ultra-LCC (Aviation Daily, April 20), although it did not directly refer to that news.
“WestJet pilots told us they are ready for a certified union,” ALPA President Tim Canoll said in a statement. “Now is the time for them to take the next step and vote for ALPA in order to obtain the resources available to secure their goals.”
ALPA expects the election to happen in May. Prior to that, the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) must verify the membership cards that pilots submitted.
If pilots do opt for ALPA representation, they would start working toward developing a collective bargaining agreement.
WestJet employees are not unionized, but do belong to a group called the WestJet Employee Association (WEA). Under the umbrella of that group is the WestJet Pilots’ Association (WJPA). Pilots have negotiated contracts covering wages and scheduling through that group, as well as new business decisions, such as adding transatlantic flights.
This is the second unionization attempt in two years, the WEA said in an April 20 statement. Pilots voted against union representation in 2015.
“The WJPA has worked collaboratively with WestJet to provide our pilots with continual advancements on compensation and work rules,” WEA Chairman Brad Armitage said in a statement. “We believe that the WEA and the WJPA is the right type of representation for WestJetters.”
WestJet has not yet revealed its plan for staffing the ULCC. The plan is subject to pilot approval, as is commonly the case when WestJet plans major business strategy decisions.
“We believe the new ULCC can only be successful if WestJet is able to negotiate separate lower labor costs with its flight crew who will work in the ULCC,” National Bank Financial analyst Cameron Doerksen said in a research note released after the new carrier announcement.
ALPA represents these Canadian airlines: First Air; Air Transat; Air Georgian; Jazz Aviation; Bearskin; Kelowna Flightcraft; and Canadian North.pilots have their own association.
WestJet employed 1,380 pilots at the end of 2016.