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WestJet pilots could strike as of Tuesday as talks drag on

A Westjet aircraft is pictured taking off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward A Westjet aircraft is pictured taking off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
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WestJet pilots and their employer are continuing to hold talks as the union warns that a walkout could come as early as Tuesday.

The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents some 1,600 flight crew at WestJet and subsidiary Swoop, says it is poised to file a 72-hour strike notice just after midnight.

Bernard Lewall, who heads the union's WestJet contingent, says the workers' issues revolve around job protection, pay and scheduling, with some 340 pilots leaving the carrier over the past year and a half - mostly to other airlines.

WestJet says there have been three times more pilot hires than resignations at its mainline operation this year.

The Calgary-based airline says its pilots are among the best paid in Canada, but that 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.

Labour shortages continue to plague the aviation industry, with a dearth of workers in areas ranging from air traffic control to ground handling as the sector begins to take off again after the pandemic collapse and travel turmoil over the past year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2023.

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