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Air Canada Pilots Vote to Join ALPA

Air Canada’s pilots have decided to join much larger Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), after 3,490 pilots voted in favor of an early agreement to merge their union with ALPA on 1 May.

Pilot leaders from the Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA) Master Elected Council and ALPA had announced on 14 March, 2023 that a merger agreement in principle had been reached and would be voted on by ACPA member pilots.

On Monday, it was announced that the ACPA vote on the merger had been held. 91.6% of the 4,500 ACPA pilots participated in the vote, which passed with 84.2% in favor.

(PAX Global Media)

The final step in the merger will be ALPA’s Executive Board vote to ratify the agreement, effectively a formality after ACPA and ALPA passed a Tentative Agreement in March, on 17 May. Representation rights will then transfer from ACPA to ALPA.

ACPA is the largest single pilot association in Canada, representing passenger and cargo pilots flying for Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge with pilot bases across Canada. ALPA is the largest airline union in the world, representing over 67,000 pilots at 39 U.S. and Canadian airlines.

Both sides will benefit from the merger, with Air Canada pilots joining a union that recently negotiated a new industry standard for pilot pay with Delta Air Lines and ALPA consolidating its influence in Canada and passing the 70,000 pilot milestone.

Speaking after news of the merger vote broke, ACPA and ALPA issued a joint statement, saying, “With this historic vote, Air Canada pilots have signalled, unequivocally, they want to join the world’s largest pilots union in negotiating strong contracts, establishing better working conditions, and advancing aviation safety”.

ACPA members picketing in Calgary. (National Post)

Air Canada will report its first-quarter earnings 12 May. Immediately after Delta agreed a 34% pay increase for its pilots after negotiations with ALPA, ACPA noted that the last round of negotiations they held with Air Canada represented a 2% annual increase since 2014. ACPA said it was disgruntled with what was now a 45% discrepancy in hourly rate between Delta and Air Canada, and that salary discussions were planned for 2023 or early 2024.

Since January, Canadian leisure airline Sunwing has agreed a 23% wage increase with a 2.5% addition from January 2024; Jetblue flight deck crews accepted a 21.5% pay rise over 18 months; Hawaiian Airlines pilots negotiated a 32% pay rise over four years; Spirit Airlines agreed to a cumulative weighted average amounting to 25% for pilots; and Delta Air Lines agreed to a 34% pay rise for pilots over three years, and an immediate 5% pay increase for all U.S. employees a year after another 5% increase.

Of the 5 airlines which agreed to raises, 4 were negotiating with ALPA. The ACPA merger represents the latest in a series of successive victories for the pilots’ union since Capt. Jason Ambrosi was appointed Chairman on 1 January 2023.

ALPA Chairman, Capt. Jason Ambrosi. (Alamy)

ALPA seemed to allude in March to the negotiating expertise and resources it could offer ACPA pilots in future negotiations. ALPA’s three critical priorities are airline safety, representation and advocacy. A spokesperson said that the proposed merger “brings both associations one step closer to achieving the pilots’ joint goal of advancing the piloting profession and aviation safety in Canada and the United States. By working in unity, we are confident we will be stronger together”.

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