WestJet Encore pilots reject deal with management, sending parties back to negotiating table

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WestJet Encore pilots have voted to reject the Calgary-based airline’s tentative agreement presented last month, sending the two parties back to negotiations after it appeared a resolution had been reached.

The Air Line Pilots Association said late Friday afternoon they were underwhelmed by WestJet’s “attempts at using compensation to gloss over many of the core structural issues of the operation.”

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Fifty-three per cent of the 92 eligible pilots who voted cast their ballot against the agreement, the association said. It said there is a “deep-seated feeling” among pilots WestJet is not recognizing their needs beyond matters tied to compensation.

WestJet said in a statement that the vote won’t immediately impact operations.

Diederik Pen, president of WestJet Airlines and Group chief operating officer, said he was disappointed with the decision to reject an agreement he believes “is distinctly competitive within Canada’s airline industry and solutioned their unique concerns.”

“Our tentative agreement represented a robust negotiation process that got us to our final offer, and while we will meet with ALPA to determine next steps, we will hold firm on what is reasonable to ensure we can continue providing meaningful employment and affordable air travel to Canadians,” Pen wrote in a statement.

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Carin Kenny, chair of the WestJet Encore ALPA master executive council, said she hopes the vote sends a message to WestJet management.

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“Despite contract improvements to compensation and scheduling, our pilots held strong in their belief that management isn’t doing enough to address the ongoing pilot attraction and retention issues and low morale that remain at our airline,” Kenny wrote in a statement.

Encore pilots and management on April 8 said they had reached a tentative agreement on “most of the terms and conditions” and was subject to member ratification

WestJet Encore is the company’s regional branch that serves smaller communities across Canada, primarily with its fleet of smaller turboprop aircraft. The areas it serves include Fort McMurray, Prince George, Yellowknife and other small- to mid-sized Canadian locales.

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