Deal reached in WestJet strike but travel disruptions still expected for Canadian airline

TORONTO — Canada’s second largest airline, WestJet, has reached a deal with its mechanics to end a strike that had disrupted the travel plans of tens of thousands of passengers over the Canada Day long weekend.

WestJet said late Sunday there will still be flight disruptions in the week ahead as its planes are brought back into service.

In its own news release, the Airplane Mechanics Fraternal Association urged its members to return to work immediately pending a vote on the temporary agreement.

Some 680 workers, whose daily inspections and repairs are essential to airline operations, had walked off the job on Friday evening despite a directive for binding arbitration from the labor minister.

Since Thursday, WestJet has canceled 829 flights scheduled between then and Monday in the busiest travel weekend of the season in Canada.

The vast majority of Sunday’s trips were called off as WestJet pared down its 180-plane fleet to 32 active aircraft and topped the global list for cancellations among major airlines over the weekend.

“The damage to Canadians and our airline is massive, a swift resolution was necessary; we take no victory laps on this outcome but will sleep better tonight knowing further harm has been prevented,” Diederik Pen, President of WestJet Airlines and Group Chief Operating Officer, said in a statement.

“We will see no further labor action coming out of this dispute, as both parties agree to arbitrate the contract in the case of a failed ratification.”

Details of the agreement were not immediately available.

The union had previously said its demands around wages would cost WestJet less than $8 million Canadian (US$5.6 million) beyond what the company has offered for the first year of the collective agreement — the first contract between the two sides. It has acknowledged the gains would surpass compensation for industry colleagues across Canada and sit more on par with U.S. counterparts.

WestJet had said it has offered a 12.5% wage hike in the first year of the contract, and a compounded wage increase of 23.5% over the rest of the 5 1/2-year term.

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