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WestJet pilots' union says federal arbitration may be needed to avert a strike

WestJet pilots' union says federal arbitration may be needed to avert a strike

Old Feb 8, 2023, 3:40 am
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WestJet pilots' union says federal arbitration may be needed to avert a strike

Just what the airlines needs now, protracted labour talks with a chance of pilots strike.

WestJet pilots' union says arbitration may be needed to avert a strike

ALPA Canada, which represents approximately 1,800 pilots at WestJet and its low-cost subsidiary Swoop, says it has been negotiating unsuccessfully with the Calgary-based company since September.

"We're getting very close, in our opinion, to being at an impasse," said Bernie Lewall, chair of the union's WestJet Pilots Association.

"I think it is very likely that we're going to enter conciliation soon as far as a strike, I can't say."
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Old Feb 8, 2023, 9:01 am
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Originally Posted by tcook052
Just what the airlines needs now, protracted labour talks with a chance of pilots strike.

WestJet pilots' union says arbitration may be needed to avert a strike

ALPA Canada, which represents approximately 1,800 pilots at WestJet and its low-cost subsidiary Swoop, says it has been negotiating unsuccessfully with the Calgary-based company since September.

"We're getting very close, in our opinion, to being at an impasse," said Bernie Lewall, chair of the union's WestJet Pilots Association.

"I think it is very likely that we're going to enter conciliation soon as far as a strike, I can't say."
I wouldnt expect anything else, just part of the negotiation posturing. I would expect a strike authorization vote next, as in 2018: https://www.newswire.ca/news-release...680880251.html
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Old Feb 8, 2023, 8:24 pm
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Originally Posted by aerobod
I wouldnt expect anything else, just part of the negotiation posturing. I would expect a strike authorization vote next, as in 2018: https://www.newswire.ca/news-release...680880251.html
While I get that it's all part of the collective bargaining process which could drag out for months to come and the likelihood of my confirmed May WS reservation being impact is still relatively low, reading this news only builds in a degree of uncertainty which is the last thing I need given the handful of WS trips I planned, postponed, and reluctantly cancelled during the pandemic. More uncertainty is not what I or millions of passengers really need right now and I'd wager it's also not what the airline needs as it tries to move past the past few turbulent months, complete the Sunwing purchase, and return to something approaching more stable operations.

I don't expect WS to sign a blank cheque giving everything ALPA seeks however playing hardball and risking a shut-down would be the worst case scenario at this point and it may only serve to drive many like me who've stopped making WS their default airline of choice away for good.
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Old Feb 8, 2023, 9:11 pm
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Originally Posted by tcook052
While I get that it's all part of the collective bargaining process which could drag out for months to come and the likelihood of my confirmed May WS reservation being impact is still relatively low, reading this news only builds in a degree of uncertainty which is the last thing I need given the handful of WS trips I planned, postponed, and reluctantly cancelled during the pandemic. More uncertainty is not what I or millions of passengers really need right now and I'd wager it's also not what the airline needs as it tries to move past the past few turbulent months, complete the Sunwing purchase, and return to something approaching more stable operations.

I don't expect WS to sign a blank cheque giving everything ALPA seeks however playing hardball and risking a shut-down would be the worst case scenario at this point and it may only serve to drive many like me who've stopped making WS their default airline of choice away for good.
As far as I can tell from the general discussions, the pilot group as a whole are pushing for a 50% increase over the contract life, with 30% upfront, besides the other requirements (such as equivalency for Swoop).

I dont know what the company is offering, but it is likely closer to 20%. Even if the compromise is 35% over 5 years with 15% of that upfront, it is going to put the same sort of pressure across all other groups for similar settlements percentage wise. If not, there will be industrial action by the other unions for years to come and a loss of non-union people in back office roles due to the current relatively low wages compared with other jobs and a lack of morale due to other areas getting significant compensation increases.

If the compromise position is 35% and in general that is followed by other employee groups, that will build in about 10% increase in ticket prices. In the very short term that will lead to drop in business due to competition, but with AC pilot negotiations starting later this year, it is only a matter of time before wage pressure is applied across the whole industry.

I think in the current economic climate we will probably see some stiff discounting for this year, but then some low cost shake-outs and likely bankruptcies (especially with likely stronger passenger rights and compensation legislation), followed by reduced services and higher prices again due to lower economies of scale. As the travel spending is a bit of a fixed pool more indexed to GDP increase, I could envisage 20% less flights and 30% higher prices 2 years from now, if other factors such as fuel price stay about the same.
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Old Feb 9, 2023, 5:54 am
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As the linked article notes, the potential for labour unrest comes during the current pilot shortage in N. America which is further leverage for ALPA in talks on a new CBA.

Complicating matters however is perceived ill will between the two parties:

Lewall said WestJet pilots want to reach a deal with their employer but added he believes there is still a strong sentiment against organized labour at the company that is making it difficult.

"There's always been an anti-union attitude here amongst the management towards the pilots," he said.

"We feel, by and large, that distrust and distaste of unions has still not resolved itself. It's still very difficult for us to work collaboratively together."
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Old Feb 9, 2023, 9:19 am
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Originally Posted by tcook052
"We feel, by and large, that distrust and distaste of unions has still not resolved itself. It's still very difficult for us to work collaboratively together."
Unfortunately ALPA doesn't do itself any favours with it's public adversarial position, quite a hypocritical view they have of management with these memes that they have produced:

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/FksgO3RX...jpg&name=large
https://scontent.fyyc2-1.fna.fbcdn.n...Pg&oe=63E91012
https://scontent.fyyc2-1.fna.fbcdn.n...ww&oe=63E97A72
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Last edited by aerobod; Feb 9, 2023 at 9:43 am
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Old Feb 9, 2023, 9:49 am
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Originally Posted by aerobod
Unfortunately ALPA doesn't do itself any favours with it's public adversarial position, quite a hypocritical view they have of management with these memes that they have produced:
Originally Posted by aerobod
just part of the negotiation posturing.
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Old Feb 9, 2023, 9:57 am
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And? Would they expect anything other than adversarial responses from management if their posture is based on hypocrisy?
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Old Feb 9, 2023, 10:20 am
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I believe this was in relation to the sick leave program.
Use your sick days by December 31 or lose them for good. No carryover provisions.


Pilots are leaving WS for other airlines.
Apparently a Swoop captain makes less than a WS f/o.

A company will get the union the deserve.
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Old Feb 9, 2023, 10:21 am
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Originally Posted by aerobod
And? Would they expect anything other than adversarial responses from management if their posture is based on hypocrisy?
Based on the article comments in the linked article, the anti-union attitude predates the recent social media messages.

If going to the media to posture during collective bargaining is to be expected, then so should social media messages advances the pilot's cause. That's of course merely MHO and YMMV.
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Old Feb 9, 2023, 10:36 am
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Originally Posted by tcook052
Based on the article comments in the linked article, the anti-union attitude predates the recent social media messages.

If going to the media to posture during collective bargaining is to be expected, then so should social media messages advances the pilot's cause. That's of course merely MHO and YMMV.
The Union has been anti-management as long as the management has been anti-union, way back from when ALPA was ratified at WS, before Onex came anywhere near the ownership of WS, you just have to look at the info that was put out by them before the current agreement was signed in 2018.

You won't publicly here the same rhetoric from the management side, but I know it is there in private, no different from when I was working at WS during the last negotiations. This is due to the legislation in Canada preventing any management statements to employees that discourage union membership during bargaining between the management and union, without the risk of prosecution. This is fine in my opinion, as union membership should be an employee right outside of any management interference, but it does mean that all the publicly available noise comes from the union statements, distorting the reality of the situation.
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Old Feb 9, 2023, 10:55 am
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Originally Posted by tracon
I believe this was in relation to the sick leave program.
Use your sick days by December 31 or lose them for good. No carryover provisions.
This has been a problem with other WS employee groups and other companies for as long as I have been working. The employees are given plenty of warning in planning use of their vacation and unused sick days and to use them during the year they are incurred. It is a financial and operational liability to the company when they are carried over, it just seems like the existing rules are being enforced for once, as opposed to the usual letting it slide. Personally as a manager, I have always tried to have all employees use all days before the end of the year, at WS the unused days were typically paid out instead of being carried over, as otherwise the carry over just created more of a time off backlog into the next year.



Originally Posted by tracon
Pilots are leaving WS for other airlines.
Apparently a Swoop captain makes less than a WS f/o.

A company will get the union the deserve.
This is also a bi-lateral statement, The Union will get the conditions they deserve, based on their relationship with management. Swoop was bargained into the contract based on mutually agreed conditions which allowed defence of a market segment from competition that would not have been possible with WS wages, basically WS would have just shrunk the operation as opposed to losing money if Swoop costs had not been competitive. It allowed new pilot hires and didn't force any existing pilots into those jobs and allowed flow from Swoop into mainline. As I mention in another post, due to Canadian union legislation, you are just getting a one sided story to the situation as management is much more restricted on what can be publicly stated during bargaining.

The market conditions will eventually sort out which pilots stay with WS and which leave, the overall pilot compensation and the effect on other employee costs (due to the pilot contract being used as an example) will play out through the whole industry. I think there will be a reasonable increase, perhaps after strikes happen, but the net effect will be flight cost out pacing inflation, decreased demand and likely less airline industry jobs in a market that is already tight for qualified employees. In general the public paying more for travel being the outcome.
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Last edited by aerobod; Feb 9, 2023 at 11:04 am
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Old Feb 10, 2023, 5:35 pm
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CUPE representing the cabin crew negotiated a carry-over sick bank in their first CA, a first for that group. Odd ALPA cant do the same.
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Old Feb 11, 2023, 3:27 am
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Seems a bit more than posturing to me:

https://toronto.citynews.ca/2023/02/...-unsuccessful/

CALGARY — The union that represents pilots at WestJet says it is asking for federal assistance after months of failing to reach a contract agreement with the airline.

The WestJet Master Executive Council, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), says it has filed a request for conciliation assistance with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

The federal Minister of Labour now has 15 days to appoint a conciliation officer. Once appointed, the officer would work with the parties for 60 days to reach an agreement.
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Old Feb 11, 2023, 11:06 am
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Originally Posted by tcook052
Seems a bit more than posturing to me:

https://toronto.citynews.ca/2023/02/...-unsuccessful/

CALGARY — The union that represents pilots at WestJet says it is asking for federal assistance after months of failing to reach a contract agreement with the airline.

The WestJet Master Executive Council, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), says it has filed a request for conciliation assistance with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

The federal Minister of Labour now has 15 days to appoint a conciliation officer. Once appointed, the officer would work with the parties for 60 days to reach an agreement.
Still part of the negotiation tactics, but they have just reduced their options, as the Government mediation outcome could likely be to send both parties to arbitration. This is something ALPA has said they won't do this time around (as happened last time), but they will look totally hypocritical if they don't go to arbitration based on the Government mediation and strike instead, that will then make it look like "our way or no way" and the company has suddenly won the PR battle without saying anything.

I will cut and paste my opinion that I posted in avcanada in the pilot discussion on being ready to strike, (full thread here Be Ready - ):

' think there are a number of decision factors that could determine the longevity of the company and Onex’s willingness to keep it in the portfolio:

- GS has recently stepped aside into a more advisory / retirement mode, so his day-to-day influence and willingness to hammer on AC due to his previous run-ins with them is diminished

- I think 3 months of strike would probably put the company into an unrecoverable position due to having to shut down the operations completely again. If they didn’t pay other employees most of their salary during a strike period, they would lose most of their key people, but if they do pay them and keep the operation in a waiting state they will burn through about $500m in that time period and probably incur another $500m in losses getting their revenue back to a profitable position.

- Most of the company assets are in aircraft that are owned and brand name goodwill. Covid close to halved the value in the aircraft to keep the operation in stasis, a prolonged strike would probably reduce the goodwill close to zero and make the remaining operation unsellable.

- Current aircraft orders from all Canadian airlines are about equivalent to the full WS fleet size, so likely way above the natural growth capabilities in the market, so future competitive pressure is going to bankrupt some of the players, if it isn’t a couple of the smaller players, it will probably be WS

- I would expect in rounded numbers for pilot compensation increase ALPA is probably at 50% over 4 years and WS at 20%. I think anything over 35% will probably leave the company in an uncompetitive cost position. This is due to the fact that other employee groups (and the current shortage of labour) would be aiming for close to that (let’s say 30%), using the pilots as an example, if they don’t get close non-union people will leave and positions will be unfilled and union people will strike. This adds about 7% to the cost base, likely increasing ticket prices 10% above the competition when combined with the probable strengthened APPR legislation, until the competition have the same industry wide salary pressure. With the amount of money for travel spending closely linked to GDP, this will lead to an industry stagnation in terms of growth and contraction of those with the higher costs.

Overall Onex has some tough decisions to make, but I wouldn’t rule out either a structured wind-up of the operation or potential bankruptcy of WS if they can’t see a way to profitability in the medium and long term.'
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