WestJet pilots issue 72-hour strike notice and set to begin strike Friday

WestJet said it will lock out the airline’s pilots after their union sent 72 hours’ strike notice to the company and the government on Monday night, paving the way for a work stoppage just before May long weekend.

In a press release sent to CBC News, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said that beginning at 3 a.m. ET on May 19, the pilots plan to begin legal action, which could include the grounding of all aircraft and the actual cessation of operations.

WestJet Group said a work stoppage could occur as early as 3:00 a.m. MT on Friday. In a statement, WestJet said issuing a lockdown notice does not mean a work stoppage will occur.

However, the airline has begun to prepare to operate a reduced schedule, proactively manage changes and cancellations, and offer flexible change and cancellation options for people who want to change their plans.

“It is our responsibility to ensure the safety and complete control of our network at all times, to minimize the risk of grounding our guests, our crews and our aircraft,” said WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech. , in the press release.

“We sincerely regret the inconvenience and uncertainty this continues to cause our customers.”

About 1,850 WestJet pilots from the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) are set to go on strike. Some of the issues they say still need to be resolved include pay, job security and hours.

“After nine months of negotiations, management still fails to understand the current labor market conditions, resulting in a mass exodus of our pilots in search of better work opportunities,” said Captain Bernard Lewall, President of the WestJet ALPA Master Executive Council in a press release. .

“Others will follow if this agreement does not meet the needs of our pilots.”

Negotiations between WestJet and the pilots’ union began in September. Last month, pilots voted in favor of a strike mandate.

WATCH | WestJet pilots demonstrate in Calgary:

WestJet pilots hold information picket in Calgary as strike deadline approaches

With a strike deadline looming, WestJet pilots say they are still far apart in negotiations with the company. Members of the Air Line Pilots Association held an information picket in Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary on May 8th. CBC’s Colleen Underwood was present.

Von Hoensbroech said he was disappointed the pilots served strike notice, saying the company’s offer would have made pilots “by far the highest paid in Canada”.

In a post on Twitter on Monday night, he said he had personally joined the negotiating table and was committed to reaching a reasonable deal.

“As the union has unreasonable expectations, we see no alternative but to lock them down from Friday,” von Hoensbroech wrote on Twitter.

In the event of a flight delay or cancellation, affected customers will be refunded or relocated, as applicable, WestJet said.

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