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WestJet Encore pilots threaten strike that could disrupt regional flights

The union representing WestJet Encore pilots has voted to authorise a strike that could potentially disrupt the Canadian regional airline’s passenger flights later this month. 


Of participating WestJet Encore pilots, 97% voted to authorise a strike amid stalled negotiations with the airline, the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) said on 2 February. 


The vote comes a week into a 21-day cooling off period, following an unsuccessful federal conciliation process, and after seven months of negotiations. The manoeuvre signals the union’s willingness to strike but does not guarantee a work stoppage at WestJet Encore, which operates feeder flights for Calgary-based WestJet. 


”Without drastic improvement on our next contract, there will be little stopping WestJet Encore pilots from continuing to seek better employment opportunities elsewhere,” says Carin Kenny, chair of the WestJet Encore ALPA master executive council. ”That’s why we are looking for an industry-standard contract comparable to some of our regional colleagues across Canada.” 


The union says that “should management continue to stall negotiations, the WestJet Encore pilots are prepared to file a 72h strike notice on 14 April, with the possibility of being in a legal strike position on 17 April”. 


Diedrik Pen, WestJet’s chief operating officer, characterises the strike authorisation vote as “a common step by unions in context of the overall labour negotiation process and does not mean a strike will occur”. 


“We are steadfast in our commitment to reach an agreement with ALPA that addresses the unique concerns of our Encore pilots, is competitive within Canada’s airline industry and ensures we have a long-term sustainable future,” he adds. 


WestJet Encore operates a fleet of De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400s out of Calgary International airport, with 36 aircraft in service and 11 in storage, according to Cirium fleets data. 


In May 2023, WestJet reached a last-minute deal with pilots working at the airline and its low-cost unit Swoop, in a move barely averting strike action. WestJet had already begun cancelling flights and grounding most of its fleet as the airline’s ALPA-represented pilots prepared to begin a 72h walkout.



This article originally appeared on Flight Global

Image source: Martin Kulcsar Creative Commons

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