The WestJet Master Executive Council (MEC), represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), today filed a request for conciliation assistance with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service with regard to collective bargaining at WestJet.
The federal conciliation process allows the pilot group the opportunity to seek the government’s assistance to reach an agreement with the airline on their second contract. WestJet pilots and management began bargaining in September 2022. Although some progress has been made, the parties remain far apart on multiple key issues.
“After months of negotiations in good faith and making a sincere effort, we have only tentatively agreed to 10 of 39 sections“ said Capt. Bernard Lewall, chair of the WestJet MEC. “We are optimistic a federal conciliation officer will be able to assist in moving the bargaining process towards a satisfactory agreement.”
WestJet faced severe operational challenges during the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic but is on its way to recovery—thanks in large part to the personal and financial sacrifices of the pilot group and other employees. For some pilots, those sacrifices included a nearly 70 percent reduction in pay, while close to half of WestJet’s pilots were furloughed.
As WestJet continues its transition back to a pre-pandemic level of operations, the airline faces new challenges. “We are seeing a mass exodus of pilots from our airline as they look to explore better options at other airlines,” said Capt. Lewall. “WestJet is suffering from major pilot attraction and retention issues, which we believe management can easily navigate by offering a proper contract that recognizes past sacrifices and is reflective of the North American pilot labour marketplace.”
With this request for conciliation, the minister of Labour now has 15 days to appoint a conciliation officer. Once appointed, the officer will work with the parties for 60 days to reach an agreement. If both parties remain at an impasse following this period, a 21-day cooling-off period begins before the parties can engage in self-help.