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WestJet pilots to launch strike authorization vote as negotiations fizzle

Pilots to launch strike vote

The union representing WestJet pilots says it will launch a strike authorization vote Monday as contract talks with management drag on.

Bernard Lewall, who heads the Air Line Pilots Association's WestJet contingent, says its 1,600-person membership is "frustrated" after six months of bargaining with a company he claims has failed to seriously engage with it.

Lewall says the issues revolve around wages, scheduling and work conditions at WestJet and its discount subsidiary Swoop, with 39 pilots opting to leave for other airlines in the past month alone.

If successful, the 15-day authorization vote would set the stage for the bargaining team to call a strike following a three-week "cooling-off period," which in turn would begin after the ongoing federal conciliation process wraps up April 24.

That means the union could go on strike or lockout by the May long weekend, which traditionally kicks off the summer travel season.

The strike mandate vote, announced today during a union demonstration at WestJet headquarters at the Calgary airport, comes amid a severe pilot shortage as airlines struggle to shore up bottom lines badly dented by the pandemic.

WestJet has said the airline is focused on working with the union to reach an agreement.



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