WestJet pilots issued a 72-hour strike notice on Monday night, signaling that they could be on strike as early as 3 a.m. on Friday.
The Airline Pilots Association International (ALPA), which represents the pilots, said they issued the notice to WestJet and the Canadian Government, starting the countdown clock.
“After nine months of negotiating, management still fails to understand today’s labour market conditions, leading to a mass exodus of our pilots in search of better work opportunities, and more will follow if this agreement does not meet our pilots’ needs,” said Capt. Bernard Lewall, chair of the WestJet ALPA Master Executive Council.
The association said that if a strike occurs, the result could mean grounded planes and shutdown operations for the airline.
Capt. Lewall said that flight disruptions were not the ideal outcome, especially he said, given the support that WestJet customers had shown members of the union.
“We want to continue being a major contributor to our company’s success by helping WestJet realize its growth strategy,” Lewall said.
“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.”
He said that he hoped that the decision to issue the strike notice would serve as a notice of how “dire the situation is and reach an agreement with us.”
“That’s why we will continue to make our negotiators available 24/7 during the remainder of the 72-hour strike notice period,” Lewall said.
Late last week, LWC spoke with a passenger that paid up to secure a flight in the case of a strike.
It’s unclear what will happen to other passengers if pilots walk out.
Canada’s Minister of Labour, Seamus O’Regan, wrote on social media on Monday that the government had received notice of the potential labour action from both ALPA and WestJet.
WestJet issues lockout notice to ALPA
WestJet said that their group issued a lockout notice for ALPA on Monday, which would affect pilots from their WestJet and Swoop brands.
“The decision to issue a lockout notice, in response to the actions taken by the union today, was not one that was made lightly, and we sincerely regret the inconvenience and uncertainty this continues to cause for our guests,” said Alexis von Hoensbroech, WestJet’s CEO.
“It is our responsibility to ensure the safety and complete control of our network at all times, to minimize the risk of stranding our guests, our crews and our aircraft.”
He said that WestJet remains committed to negotiations, and that they are working around the clock to come to an agreement.
WestJet said that issuing the lockout notice did not mean that any labour action would occur, and that preparations were underway to mitigate impacts on customers.
“Should flight delays or cancellations occur, impacted guests will be refunded or re-accommodated, as applicable,” wrote the airline.
Among those changes could be a reduced schedule of flights, notifying customers of any changes to flight schedules or cancellations, and helping customers to make changes or cancel their own flight bookings.
“We truly value the work and contributions of our pilots,” said Hoensbroech.
“We believe with a commitment from both parties, an agreement is achievable and are committed to offering pilots a competitive collective agreement with meaningful improvements for the Canadian market, whilst remaining competitive at the same time.”