WestJet Encore pilots vote for strike mandate, adding to airline’s turbulence

WestJet Encore pilots could go on strike as soon as April 17 after they approved a strike mandate Tuesday.

Aviators at WestJet’s regional carrier voted 97 per cent in favour of strike authorization after contract talks around pay and career progression came to a “near standstill,” the Air Line Pilots Association said.

The 355 pilots it represents can walk off the tarmac 72 hours after union leadership files a strike notice. The potential job action or lockout can only take place after a 21-day cooling-off period that started when federal conciliation between the two sides wrapped up last week.

Carin Kenny, who heads the union’s WestJet Encore contingent, said its workers are the lowest-paid regional pilots in Canada, driving some to seek jobs elsewhere.

The pilot shortage that she says persists at Encore makes the leap to WestJet’s higher-wage mainline operation a rare feat, since flight crew are needed at the regional level.

WestJet did not immediately respond to questions on the strike mandate.

The airline narrowly averted a strike last year after talks with a different set of pilots came down to the wire, prompting the carrier to cancel more than 230 flights in preparation for a job action before a deal was reached hours ahead of the walkout deadline.

The collective agreement with pilots at WestJet and Swoop — but not WestJet Encore — granted a 24 per cent pay bump over four years.

WestJet announced in June last year it would wind down its five-year-old subsidiary Swoop and fold the budget airline’s operations under its main banner.

The potential labour disruption comes as Canada’s second-largest airline faces indefinite delays on dozens of new aircraft deliveries after a panel blowout on a Boeing 737 Max plane in January pushed back certification for the Max 10 as the U.S. aircraft maker contends with greater scrutiny from regulators.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *