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WestJet issues lockout notice to mechanics’ union

westjet issues lockout notice to mechanics union

WestJet has issued a 72-hour lockout notice to the union representing the Calgary-based airline’s mechanics. The notice paves the way for a work stoppage to begin on Tuesday.

Last week, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), which represents the carrier’s aircraft maintenance engineers, announced that members would begin taking a strike vote on May 2. Voting will continue until May 9.

WestJet and the AMFA have been negotiating a new contract since September 2023.

In a Saturday morning email to employees, Diederik Pen, WestJet’s president and chief operating officer, said work stoppages could begin as early as Tuesday at noon MT.

“We did not take this action without careful consideration. AMFA publicly issued a strike vote alert last week and actively encouraged guests to fly other carriers several times,” the email said.

Pen said if the work stoppage can’t be avoided, WestJet is prepared to take the following steps:

  • Operating under a reduced schedule.

  • Proactively managing changes and cancellations and ensuring communications with passengers in advance of their flights.

  • Implementing flexible change and cancel options for passengers who wish to make alternate arrangements.

Pen also advised WestJet workers to refrain from booking employee travel.

“Rest assured our focus remains at the bargaining table and we believe, with a commitment from both parties, an agreement is achievable,” Pen wrote to employees.

AMFA regional director Will Abbott, who chairs the union’s WestJet-AMFA negotiating committee, told CBC News that the lockout notice was “not unexpected.”

“We feel that it’s unfortunate that it comes to this, but we remain to negotiate in good faith. Nothing is going to be resolved until we get to the finish line. What needs to be done is a collective bargaining agreement that both sides can live with,” he said.

Issues remain benefits and pay

Abbott says the biggest outstanding issues are what he calls “quality-of-life issues,” including benefits and pay.

“We also have to make sure that we have language that protects the jobs that you do. You can have all the money in the world, but if you don’t have the language to protect your job, you’re not going to earn,” he said.

In a statement posted Saturday to the airline’s website, Pen defended the airline’s latest offer to the union. 

“The WestJet Group has presented an offer to AMFA that would make WestJet aircraft maintenance engineers the highest paid in Canada, with a cumulative wage increase of over 20 per cent across the span of the collective agreement. The offer would also deliver industry leading work-life balance standards and strong commitments to job security,” the statement said.

“We sincerely value the work and contributions of our aircraft maintenance engineers, and our proposed agreement reflects this. We are unwaveringly committed to reaching an agreement to prevent travel disruption, however, we are equally prepared to protect the travel plans of our guests and to provide long-term stability and security for all employees at the WestJet Group.”

Abbott says AMFA plans to keep negotiating, despite the lockout notice. When asked to rate the chances of Tuesday’s work stoppage being avoided, he said he was the wrong person to ask.

“I didn’t serve the lockout, so I can say that question would be in WestJet’s court.”

This article is from from cbc.ca (CBC NEWS CANADA)

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