Canada’s WestJet Group has issued a lockout notice to the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the union that represents WestJet and Swoop pilots, in response to their strike notification.
The airline group notes that a work stoppage could occur as early as Friday, May 19, 2023, at 3 a.m. MT.
“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 Group, Chief Executive Officer.
“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.”
“Our commitment and priority remains at the bargaining table, where we will continue to work around the clock to come to a reasonable agreement as soon as possible, in an effort to prevent labour action,” the CEO stated.
72-hour strike notice
The lockout advice from the airline group comes after the representative union sent notification of a 72-hour strike to both WestJet Group and Canadian government on Monday this week.
The ALPA is the representative union for both WestJet and swoop airlines, and the lockout advice is applicable to both carriers.
In their responding statement, the airline Group recognised that notice does not necessarily mean a work stoppage will occur.
However, in the coming days, the WestJet Group has stated that it will take all necessary actions to manage the impacts as much as possible, including:
- Beginning preparations to operate a reduced schedule – unfortunately, this will be a significant reduction from WestJet and Swoop’s current networks.
- Proactively managing changes and cancellations, to ensure the ability to communicate with guests in advance of changes.
- Providing flexible change and cancel options for those who wish to make alternate arrangements.
Throughout negotiations, the WestJet Group maintains that it has brought forward a generous contract that if agreed to will make its first officers and captains the highest paid narrow-body pilots in Canada, with a significant advantage over the next best paying Canadian airline.
“We truly value the work and contributions of our pilots. 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,” concluded von Hoensbroech.
The potential action involves approximately 1,800 WestJet pilots with the ALPA union. On their social media channels, WestJet Pilots MEC stated that “If no progress is made, we could withdraw our services at 0300 MT May 19th, 2023.”
The negotiations between union and company have been continuing since September 2022, and pilots voted in favour of strike action last month.