Canada’s second-largest airline WestJet has begun cancelling flights in anticipation of a strike by aircraft maintenance and technical personnel.

The Calgary-based carrier said on 18 June that it struck ”about 40 flights” from its schedule this week, affecting approximately 6,500 customers.

The airline says it will “park aircraft in a safe and organised manner” and hopes to “minimise the potential for being stranded” for guests and crew, as well as ”avoid abandoning aircraft in remote locations”.

The decision to cancel flights comes as the WestJet Group awaits a response from the Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB). If its request to the CIRB to intervene is accepted, WestJet and its employees would begin arbitration for a first collective agreement while also preventing labour action by either party.

WJ115_21Jan2021_first Max reveune flight in Canada following grounding

Source: WestJet

WestJet has cancelled “about 40 flights” due to a potential strike by maintenance and technical personnel

“We are immensely disheartened that we are in a position where we must activate our contingency plan and begin parking aircraft, as a result of the strike notice served by [union] AMFA,” says Diederik Pen, the airline’s chief operating officer.

“Following the memberships’ nearly unanimous decision to reject a generous tentative agreement that would have made our aircraft maintenance engineers the highest paid in the country, with a take-home pay increase of 30% to 40% in the first year of the proposed agreement, it is clear that the bargaining process has broken down.”

Last week, WestJet reached an agreement with WestJet Encore pilots, ending an acrimonious period of negotiations that nearly disrupted the carrier’s regional operations.

The five-year collective bargaining agreement was ratified on 13 June, according to the Air Line Pilots Association, International, the union representing Encore’s pilots. Nearly 80% of the pilots who cast ballots voted in favour of the agreement.

Effective immediately, the contract is retroactive to 1 January and runs through the end of 2028.