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WestJet pilots obtain sky-high strike support
Workers represented by the international Air Line Pilots Association vote 93% in favour of job action.
WestJet pilots have voted 93% in favour of going on strike, according to the union that represents them, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).
The vote had 95% participation, with results coming in on April 18, during the final week of third party mediation between WestJet and ALPA, who have been negotiating a new contract since September.
This sets the stage for the pilots to strike if a deal isn’t reached by May 16, a week before the May long weekend.
WestJet Capt. Bernard Lewall, chair of the bargaining unit’s master executive council, told The Orchard that the company is sidestepping its inability to retain pilots as an issue that needs to be addressed in negotiations.
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In 2022, according to ALPA, WestJet lost 240 pilots. This exodus has only grown worse in 2023, with 100 pilots leaving in the first quarter alone. This equates to a pilot leaving every 18 hours.
“They’re by-and-large going to other airlines, they’re not retiring,” Lewall noted.
Alexis von Hoenbroech, WestJet’s CEO, has boasted of the company’s “growth potential,” which Lewall said these numbers call into question.
“Something doesn’t add up,” Lewall said. “We cannot grow without pilots.”
An ALPA news release attributes the difficulty retaining pilots to the “airline trying to reduce costs by driving down wages and refusing to address scheduling concerns and other poor working conditions.”
To stop the bleeding of pilots, ALPA says WestJet needs to begin the process of paying them a standard North American wage, which Lewall said they only make half of.
“We recognize we’re not going to close that gap, but we need to narrow that gap,” he said. “We need the company to start getting real … and agree to a timeline for that to occur.”
This is the “root problem” at the heart of negotiations, Lewall added. “There’s no career progression here. Your career stagnates if you’re a WestJet pilot.”
Von Hoenbroech told The Canadian Press that if pilots want to make American wages, they should move to the States, “and then live with everything it comes with."
According to ALPA, 40% of WestJet pilots are commuters. “When it comes down to a work-life balance, it’s difficult for these pilots. They’re away from home, in some cases, 20 days a month,” Lewall said.
The company is constantly asking them to take on more shifts, leading to even more time away from home and increased burnout.
Since 2017, ALPA has represented WestJet pilots and those at discount subsidiary Swoop, who are paid less than their WestJet counterparts. WestJet is in the process of purchasing Sunwing, which will likely mean another caste of underpaid pilots.
Pilots at all three airlines fly the same Boeing 737 planes, highlighting the issue of “equal pay for equal work,” Lewall said.
After conciliation ends next week, the employer and ALPA enter a three-week cooling off period, which ends on May 13. If ALPA and WestJet can’t reach a deal by then, the union will provide 72 hours strike notice.
If the WestJet pilots go on strike, they will have a US $2 million war chest approved by the ALPA executive.
In a statement to the Globe and Mail, WestJet COO Diederik Pen said the company is “unwaveringly committed to achieving an agreement that is competitive within Canada’s airline industry and ensures we have a long-term sustainable future.”
WestJet is the second-largest airline in Canada, representing 31% of the market compared to 49% for Air Canada.
You can learn more about the WestJet pilots’ demands here.
Alberta government plans to legislate forced recovery for some drug users
Globe and Mail reporter Alanna Smith has obtained a trove of documents outlining the Alberta government’s plan to force people who use drugs into recovery against their will through legislation.
The so-called Compassionate Intervention Act would be the first involuntary treatment legislation for people who use drugs in Canada, giving police and family members the ability to declare a drug user a harm to themselves or others.
These applications would be heard by an administrative panel, as is done for involuntary treatment in Portugal, with a potential separate panel for Indigenous people.
The 450 pages of documents cover the period from Premier Danielle Smith (no relation to the reporter, as far as I’m aware) assuming the UCP leadership to Dec. 15. They include reports and conversations between Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction executive director Coreen Everington, deputy minister Bryce Stewart and assistant deputy minister Evan Romanow.
Reporter Smith notes:
The UCP has centred its addictions strategy on detoxification, treatment and recovery. At the same time, it has restricted certain harm-reduction measures, such as supervised consumption sites. But it has not yet produced data that demonstrate whether this path has been successful.
While federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilevre claims a temporary respite in overdose deaths shows this recovery-centric approach is working, that is a crock of shit, as journalist Paul Wells has noted in his newsletter.
One report the Globe obtained acknowledges the policy is “potentially at odds” with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — namely the right to life, liberty and security, and the right not to be arbitrarily detained.
Read the full story here.
In other news …
In the largest job action against a single employer in Canadian history, 155,000 federal public servants are on strike across the country starting today. I’ll be on my local picket line here in Edmonton and will have a report in your inbox tomorrow.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a $162,000 post-Christmas (and birthday) vacation at a luxurious Jamaican estate owned by Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation donor Peter Green. A Liberal source told Radio Canada that they “can't explain why” Trudeau is constantly giving “ammunition” for his opponents to portray him as an out of touch elite.
Three days after unveiling her 30-person multiculturalism panel, Premier Smith had to accept the resignation of appointee Tariq Khan after the NDP revealed her party denied his candidacy in 2018 due to a history of online antisemitism.
Fox News has narrowly avoided a highly embarrassing defamation trial by reaching a US$787.5-million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems, which Fox hosts accused of rigging the 2020 election for President Joe Biden.
The A/V Corner
Listen: After a couple months of book-writing exile, I return to Big Shiny Takes, where The Hoser founder Kevin Taghabon and Drinking Up the Revolution author James Wilt join me and Eric to talk about the alcohol industry.
Watch: In a bit of AI-generated fun, Presidents Biden, Donald Trump and Barack Obama rank their favourite Radiohead albums.