Strike Averted As WS Makes Concessions, Mediation Set

Open Jaw, Bruce Parkinson

WS CEO Ed Sims

Your clients flying WestJet in the days to come can now rest easy with the threat of a pilot strike averted. And the union representing pilots has won an important concession -- WS has agreed to let union-represented pilots fly all of its planes, including Swoop.

The Calgary-based airline and the Air Line Pilots Association agreed to a settlement process through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The two sides have agreed to mediation, and if a deal can’t be reached that way, final and binding arbitration will be imposed.

"I think the most important news tonight is that the threat of strike action has been removed for WestJet guests. WestJet guests can now continue to book and travel in absolute confidence around their trip," said WestJet CEO Ed Sims during a press conference at YYC on Friday evening.

More than 90% of WS pilots voted in favour of a strike mandate early this month. They were legally eligible to walk out on 19MAY, but the pilots committed not to disrupt travel plans for pax over the Victoria Day long weekend.

Still, operating under a strike threat was financially damaging to the airline. Sims said the losses can be counted in the "tens of millions of dollars," which doesn't include the effect on the airline’s share value.

WS and its pilot union have been negotiating a new contract for months. The sticking point for the union was the Calgary-based airlines' latest venture — the ultra-low-cost carrier Swoop. The airline initially planned to partially staff the discount carrier with non-company pilots in order to achieve low fares. The union's position is that only WestJet pilots should fly the airline's fleet, including those of its subsidiaries.

WestJet has now agreed to that condition, but wages and working conditions are yet to be determined. Sims says the issues surrounding Swoop will be part of the terms of the arbitration agreement.

"We would like a settlement reached as soon as possible," Sims said. "I think at our most optimistic, in the next few weeks and ideally no later than the end of June."

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.

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