DALLAS — WestJet (WS) pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA), have given airline management and the government a 72-hour strike notice, according to ALPA. The notice warns about the start of lawful job action on May 19, 2023, if a fair and equitable contract is not negotiated to improve the working conditions of the crew at WS.
This strike action notice comes after the massive resignation campaign going on at WS, where pilots are choosing to leave the company in search of better working conditions, allegedly offered even by airlines of competition in Canada.
Capt. Bernard Lewall, chair of the WestJet ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC), stated: “After nine months of negotiating, management still fails to understand today’s labor 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.
ALPA had the option to issue the notice earlier in May but agreed to extend negotiations with the airline to not interrupt the normal operations of WS during the weekend.
Now, as negotiations hit a stalemate, the WS pilot strike will commence at 05:00 EST on Friday, May 19, thus extending to the grounding of all aircraft and the complete stop of operations at WS this weekend.
One WestJet Pilot Leaves the Airline Every 18 Hours
One pilot leaves WS every 18 hours —that is the number given by the ALPA to demonstrate the dramatic situation the pilot community and the airline itself are suffering due to the conditions stated in the current contract. Among the main requests presented by the ALPA, we can find general job security improvements and an industry-standard salary.
Pilots at WS mostly complain about the rigidity of their work schedules, which reduces the quality of their rest and hinders their balance between work and life, as stated by the Association.
Capt. Lewall continued, “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. That’s why we will continue to make our negotiators available 24/7 during the remainder of the 72-hour strike notice period.”
COVID-19 Contracts Overhaul
The WS pilots join a long list of industry groups and unions that have been threatening and acting against their employers. The main reason behind the multiple strikes happening in the last two years dates to 2020 when the COVID-19 crisis forced massive airline operation, crew, and fleet reductions.
Today, there are various carriers that still have not updated their working conditions post-COVID from those that made sense three years ago when dealing with the sudden lack of demand and resources to keep businesses alive.
The latest flight crew strikes covered by Airways include those affecting Southwest Airlines (WN), American Airlines (AA), Air Europa (UX), and TAP Air Portugal (TP). Others, such as Berlin Airport (BER) or Munich Airport (MUC) also experience strikes in the summer of 2022, which caused massive flight delays and staff shortages that took a toll on the overall performance of airlines and airports during the high season in Europe.
This is a developing story.
Featured image: WestJet Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Michal Mendyk/Airways