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WestJet Encore pilots issue strike notice, work stoppage possible

A passenger boards a WestJet Encore Bombardier Q400 twin-engined turboprop aircraft in Kamloops, Saturday, June 3, 2023.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh A passenger boards a WestJet Encore Bombardier Q400 twin-engined turboprop aircraft in Kamloops, Saturday, June 3, 2023.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
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WestJet Encore pilots could walk off the job this weekend if an agreement isn’t reached with the airline, after filing a 72-hour strike notice.

The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), the union representing the pilots, announced the strike notice on Wednesday, saying its members can begin job action on June 1 if the two parties can’t come to terms on a new contract.

WestJet issued an advanced lockout notice to the ALPA on Wednesday afternoon. The airline said a work stoppage could occur as early as 6 p.m. MT on June 1.

The union and the airline resumed bargaining two weeks ago after the pilots rejected a tentative agreement.

ALPA noted that progress has been made, but the two sides are still apart on some of the issues important to the pilots.

“After eight months of negotiating, and a failed (tentative agreement), unfortunately management has not recognized the pilots’ needs. We have expressed to management that we are willing to work with them to further address the issues that clearly remain for our pilots,” said Capt. Carin Kenny, chair of the WestJet Encore ALPA Master Executive Council.

“Until WestJet Encore management negotiates a contract that recognizes the current labour market conditions in Canada’s airline industry, and addresses the needs of our pilots, management will continue to struggle to attract and retain the well-trained, highly skilled pilots required to help our airline be successful.”

In a news release Wednesday, WestJet apologized for the uncertainty the potential work stoppage causes guests and said it is hopeful disruptions can be prevented.

“Our tentative agreement represented a robust negotiation process that got us to our final offer. Given this, over the past two weeks, we have been working diligently to understand where we could better align priorities within the financial framework presented,” said Diederik Pen, president of WestJet Airline and group chief operating officer.

“Unfortunately, given the pace of progress and our steadfast priority to protect the summer travel plans of Canadians, a lockout notice was required to provide certainty for our guests and employees by bringing this to a final resolution.”

WestJet and the ALPA have been negotiating on a new deal since September 2023.

ALPA represents more than 77,000 pilots at 41 Canadian and U.S. airlines.

According to Westjet’s website, the airline is preparing to operate at a reduced schedule and going to provide flexible change and cancellation options for those who wish to make alternative arrangements.

If you have an upcoming Encore flight, Westjet says to check your flight status before checking-in or going to the airport, and visit their guest updates page for more information.

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