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Strike Averted: WestJet and Mechanics Head Back to Negotiating Table

The airline cancelled approximately 40 flights to prevent aircraft, passengers and crew from being stranded.

A WestJet Boeing 787 Dreamliner (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Zera)

WestJet has announced that it will be cancelling around 40 flights in anticipation of a strike by its maintenance workers. The move comes after nine months of negotiations between the company and the union representing WestJet’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineers and other Tech Ops employees.

Cancellation Details

WestJet has cancelled approximately 40 flights this week to prepare for the potential strike. The second largest Canadian airline estimates that the cancellations will affect around 6,500 customers.

According to flight tracking website FlightAware, WestJet cancelled five flights on Tuesday. The airline has cancelled 20 flights on Wednesday as of 2:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

The Calgary-based company stated in a press release that it has proactively started cancelling and consolidating flights in order to park aircraft in an organized manner and to prevent aircraft, passengers and crew from being stranded.

Ongoing Labor Unrest

Negotiations between WestJet and the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) – the union that represents WestJet maintenance workers – have been ongoing since September of 2023. The company issued a 72-hour lockout notice to the union on May 4, 2024, but the parties came to a tentative agreement the following day. However, employees overwhelmingly rejected the tentative agreement last week with a 97.25% “no” vote, sending the parties back to the negotiating table.

AMFA National President Bret Oestreich stated that the main factors behind the rejection were WestJet’s perceived bad-faith bargaining and the fact that the company’s final pay increase offer was more than 30 percent below the prevailing rate at other North American carriers. Meanwhile, WestJet Airlines President Diederick Pen has called the tentative agreement “generous,” pointing out that it included a take-home pay of 30 to 40 percent in the first year.

The union issued a 72-hour strike notice on June 17, 2024, meaning that a work stoppage could occur as early as Thursday. WestJet has requested that the Canada Industrial Relations Board intervene with binding arbitration. The board also has the power to prevent a work stoppage while the arbitration process takes place.

Update: On the evening of June 19, 2024, WestJet announced that it had come to an agreement with the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association to return to the negotiating table and avoid a strike. Meanwhile, the Canadian Industrial Relations Board has stated that it will require additional time and information to consider WestJet’s request for arbitration.

Andrew Chen

Author

  • Andrew Chen

    Andrew is a lifelong lover of aviation and travel. He has flown all over the world and is fascinated by the workings of the air travel industry. As a private pilot and glider pilot who has worked with airlines, airports and other industry stakeholders, he is always excited to share his passion for aviation with others. In addition to being a writer, he also hosts Flying Smarter, an educational travel podcast that explores the complex world of air travel to help listeners become better-informed and savvier travelers.

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