Pilots at Canada's WestJet Airlines could go on strike in 72 hours
WestJet pilots could go on strike in 72 hours right before the May long weekend, as they failed to reach an agreement after pushing for better scheduling, job protection, and pay.
Essentially, there may be some major travel disruptions for anyone travelling with WestJet or its subsidiary Swoop during Canada's upcoming Victoria Day long weekend.
Today the WestJet Pilots MEC issued a 72 hours strike notice. If no progress is made, we could withdraw our services at 0300 MT May 19th, 2023. Our negotiating committee remains available 24/7 to reach a deal.#showusafuture #weareready #willstrikeifprovoked #countdown pic.twitter.com/usKJVss491— WestJet ALPA Pilots (@WestJetALPA) May 16, 2023
The Air Line Pilots Association said in a May 15 press release that pilots plan to begin lawful job action early Friday morning of May 19, which could "include grounding all aircraft and effectively shutting down operations."
"Flight disruptions are never an ideal outcome, especially given the tremendous support our guests have shown us, and we want to continue being a major contributor to our company’s success by helping WestJet realize its growth strategy," said Bernard Lewall, who heads the union's WestJet contingent.
"However, WestJet pilots will withdraw our services to secure a contract that will fix many of the airline's labour problems and make it a career destination for pilots once again."
While the Calgary-based airline said its pilot are among the best paid in Canada, a contract on par with those recently secured by some U.S. pilot groups would be financially unworkable and put the company's future at risk.
According to Lewall, around 340 pilots have left the carrier over the past 1.5 years, mostly heading to other airlines.
The union noted that while some progress was made on most non-cost items, both sides have been unable to reach an agreement.
While the lockout notice doesn't guarantee a work stoppage will occur and both parties remain at the bargaining table, the statement said the company would "begin preparations to operate a reduced schedule."
For anyone impacted by flight delays or cancellations, WestJet says they will be refunded or re-accommodated as applicable.
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