As of this morning, a press release from the Air Line Pilots Association has confirmed that 91% of WestJet pilots in the union have said yes to a strike or job action.
This means that the pilots can legally commence job action on May 19th, but in a show of goodwill, have decided not to strike over Victoria Day weekend so as not to disrupt travel plans.
The results of this vote are a culmination of about 8 months of negotiations with the airline giant to give WestJet pilots their first ever contract.
The demands for a contract arose after the company announced its intentions to outsource jobs in order to maintain the low costs promised for their new carrier, Swoop.
On Tuesday, May 8th, WestJet pilots and other airline pilots in the industry lined up outside the WestJet Headquarters in Calgary to picket their shareholder’s annual general meeting.
Their objective was to make WestJet conclude negotiations with the union (which had been in the works since September 2017) to give pilots their first ever contract with the company.
If the pilots’ demands are met, agreement would guarantee fair wages (in line with the earnings of other pilots in the industry), better working conditions, and limit outsourcing.
After the picketing on Tuesday, uncertainties about the company’s future lead to fewer flight bookings, and their stock has since been downgraded.
As of May 9th, WestJet’s shares were sitting below $20 – a drop of over 25%. According to a report by Financial Post, CIBC analyst Kevin Chiang lowered the airline’s rating from neutral to underperformer, while AltaCorp Capital analyst Chris Murray decreased it from sector perform to underperform.
The company is now subject to lower sales while tackling rising fuel costs and attempting to launch a new low cost airline at the same time.
Their largest competitor, Air Canada, was quick to swoop in amid the uncertainties on Tuesday, stating that they are poised to adjust their schedules and capacity to accommodate passengers whose travels would be disrupted if WestJet pilots commenced job action.
Hoping for a quick resolution
“The goal is—and always has been—to secure a fair collective agreement that brings stability to the airline, and not to strike,” said Capt. Rob McFadyen, chairman of WestJet’s ALPA Master Executive Council.
“The strong results of our strike vote and the excellent turnout at our informational picketing event earlier this week should provide management the added incentive it needs to bring serious proposals to the bargaining table that address our concerns.”
The next phase of negotiations will now be carried on in Halifax where both parties will remain until the deal has been signed.
“We acknowledge the outcome of this vote and recognize the mandate WestJet pilots have given ALPA,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO.
“We remain at the negotiation table to drive a sustainable agreement, in the best interest of our pilots, 13,000 WestJetters and the 70,000 guests who fly with us daily.”