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WestJet strike over as mechanics union and airline reach tentative agreement

WestJet says the strike that affected tens of thousands of travellers during the long weekend is over after an agreement with the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) was made late on Sunday.

“The damage to Canadians and our airline is massive, a swift resolution was necessary,” said WestJet president Diederik Pen in a statement.

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

Strike had ‘meaningful impact,’ says union

AMFA said the deal provided substantial improvements over both their current terms of employment and the first tentative agreement rejected by its roughly 680 members.

The deal includes an immediate 15.5 per cent wage increase, followed by a pay increase of 3.25 per cent next year, and 2.5 per cent each year for the final three years over the five-year term, according to the union.

A young female passenger in pink pyjamas makes her way past WestJet airplane mechanics as they stand in a the picket line at Calgary International Airport.
A passenger makes her way past WestJet airplane mechanics as they stand in a the picket line at Calgary International Airport on Saturday. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

“Your presence in bargaining sessions and on picket lines had a meaningful impact on the end result of this journey,” AMFA’s negotiating committee wrote to its members in a statement obtained by CBC News.

A union member told CBC News they went back to work immediately after the deal was reached to help get the fleet ready.

Return to normal will take time, says WestJet

The surprise strike that started on Friday night caused chaos for travellers at airports around the country, many left confused on how to rebook or get a refund.

It’s unclear if flights that have been cancelled this week due to the strike will be reinstated.

Dozens of aircraft are parked at the WestJet hangar behind a chain link fence.
Dozens of aircraft were parked at the WestJet hangar at the Calgary aiport on Saturday. WestJet says it was forced to ground 130 aircraft at 13 airports across Canada in response to the strike. (Jaedyn White)

“The airline will begin work to restore operations in a safe and timely manner,” the company said in a release. “Given the significant impact to WestJet’s network over the past few days, returning to business-as-usual flying will take time and further disruptions over the coming week are to be anticipated as the airline gets aircraft and crew back into position.”  

In an email update to CBC News earlier on Sunday, WestJet said 832 flights had been cancelled and an estimated 100,000 passengers were affected by the strike over the weekend.

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.

Agreement comes after confusion over mediation

AMFA’s decision to strike on Friday came a day after Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan directed the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) to impose binding arbitration to solve outstanding collective agreement issues between WestJet and the union. 

But the board allowed for a strike to occur even after the minister’s order. 

The union said it was able to reach the tentative deal because of the board’s decision to uphold its right to strike. 

“We believe this outcome would not have been possible without the strike, but we do regret the disruption and inconvenience it has caused the travelling public over the Canada Day holiday period,” AMFA said in a statement early Monday morning. 

The disruption of travel plans of thousands of Canadians over the July long weekend inflicted significant costs for WestJet, which the airline vowed it would hold AMFA responsible for. 

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

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