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Threat of pilots strike appears over as WestJet, union agree to settlement process
A WestJet plane is seen in this undated image.
CALGARY - The president and CEO of WestJet says the threat of a strike by its pilots is over.
Ed Sims said the Calgary-based airline and the union that represents the pilots have agreed to a settlement process that will involve a federal mediator.
If necessary, WestJet and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) have agreed to use final and binding arbitration.
“We are pleased with the removal of the threat of strike action, we are grateful for the role played by the government, both with their mediation services and with the offer of support with arbitration,” Sims said Friday at Calgary International Airport.
“The message I can give all Canadians is that they can continue to book in 100 per cent confidence that no strike action will threaten their travel plans.”
The two sides had resumed contract talks on Tuesday.
The pilots were legally able to launch a strike last Saturday, but committed not to disrupt passenger travel plans over the Victoria Day long weekend as a goodwill gesture.
The ALPA represents about 1,500 pilots at WestJet's main service.
Sims said WestJet hopes to reach a deal with the union no later than the end of June.
He said the uncertainty about a possible strike has cost the company “tens of millions of dollars.”
WestJet has said its bargaining team was focused on getting a sustainable agreement that benefits pilots, WestJet customers and the company as a whole.
The airline had promised to refund tickets if flights were cancelled in the event of a strike.
WestJet has said that its bookings have slowed since the union said it would seek a strike mandate, which was supported by 91 per cent of its members.
WestJet's planned launch of its Swoop ultra-low cost carrier has been a source of contention between pilots and the company.
Earlier this year, the union won a Canada Industrial Relations Board challenge to the company's proposed policy to offer pilots a two-year leave of absence if they go to fly for Swoop.
The ALPA complained that the policy was a significant change in the company's terms of employment and an interference with the union's right to represent the pilots.