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WestJet Encore pilots hold information picket at Calgary International Airport


WestJet Encore pilots held an information picket at Calgary International Airport on Friday afternoon, seeking improved working conditions and wages, along with career progression in the company.

The job action comes after seven months of negotiations between the workers and the company as they try to work out a fair contract.

“When most pilots started working at WestJet Encore, they believed working for our airline was a step towards a long career within the WestJet family," said Capt. Carin Kenny, WestJet Encore's master executive council chair. "Now we are nothing more than a training ground for pilots looking to leave for better opportunities.

"We are here to fight for a contract that will change that and make working within the WestJet Group a career goal.”

The group says it doesn't want to see flights disrupted by any possible strike and remains committed to negotiations through both the conciliation period and 21-day cooling off period.

John Gradek, an aviation professor at McGill University, says the information picket comes as the division deals with a shortage of pilots.

“WestJet Encore operates 47 turboprop airplanes, they’ve got 322 pilots,” said Gradek.

“That’s a little low in terms of the number of pilots they would need to fly those planes.”

Encore pilots are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, which looks after 77,000 pilots in U.S. and Canada.

“They have a point that they're overworked, that their schedules are more demanding than they would normally be for a WestJet pilot,” said Gradek.

According to Gradek, WestJet pilots got a new contract last year.

“The gap between WestJet pilots and Encore pilots grew significantly,” he said.

If a deal has not been struck by April 14, the pilots can file a 72-hour strike notice and be in the position to legally strike on April 17.


WestJet CEO Alexis Von Hoensbroech said management respected the rights of pilots and maintenance engineers, who are also negotiating a deal, to picket.

"What we're seeing today is picketing of both our pilots from WestJet Encore and of our aircraft maintenance engineers that are maintaining all the airplanes that we have," Von Hoensbroech said.."We are in bargaining with both groups and  picketing is something that usually happens in bargaining.

"It's the right and the wish of those groups to show unity and they've show great unity today -- and we, of course, appreciate that," he added.

"I'm here to show my respect to our valued staff members and our valued unions," he said, continuing. "They come out here in the cold today to picket and to show their unity and i think it's part of paying respect to them that I'm here in the cold as well, and I look at it and take notice.

"Both our aircraft maintenance engineers and our pilots, they should know and they do know that we are committed to come up with a deal that makes sense for them and that makes sense for us," Von Hoensbroech said. Top Stories

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