CALGARY – WestJet Airlines says it’s still on course to launch its new Swoop ultra-low-cost carrier despite unresolved bargaining issues with the Air Line Pilots Association, as the two sides negotiate a first contract.
The Canada Industrial Relations Board recently ordered WestJet to withdraw a new policy of offering its pilots a two-year leave of absence if they go to fly for Swoop.
The ALPA complained that the policy, posted by WestJet on Jan. 31, was a significant change in the company’s terms of employment and an interference with the union’s right to represent the pilots.
A CIRB ruling dated March 2 and announced on Tuesday agreed that the policy could pose “substantial irreparable harm to the union” and noted that the alleged violation came during “the sensitive period of collective bargaining.”
It also said its order revoking the leave policy would remain in place until either a related complaint of unfair labour practices was dealt with by the board, or a collective agreement is reached.
A WestJet representative decline to be interviewed on the CIRB’s decision but said in an email that the launch of Swoop is on track for its first flight in June.
“WestJet remains committed to engaging in constructive dialogue with ALPA and we are optimistic we will come to a fair and reasonable agreement,” the company said Wednesday.
The ALPA represents about 1,500 pilots at WestJet’s main service and 500 at its WestJet Encore regional service.
WestJet is aiming to launch Swoop with three aircraft in June and grow to six by September.
By the spring of next year, Swoop would have 10 planes and eventually reach 30 to 40 aircraft on domestic and international flights.
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