A looming lockout and threatened pilots’ strike did not prompt a work stoppage at WestJet Encore as negotiations between the airline and its union resulted in a tentative contract.

WestJet on 30 May disclosed that the union had agreed to a tentative deal, avoiding potential disruption of the carrier’s network on 1 June. 

Both sides signalled on 29 May action that would have disrupted Encore’s regional operations, with pilots – represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) – issuing a three-day strike notice to the airline’s management and the government of Canada. 

”This started the clock on a 72h countdown to negotiate a fair and equitable contract before the pilots can legally utilise all the options available to them under the Canada Labour Code,” ALPA said. 

WestJet Encore Q400

Source: WestJet Encore

WestJet Encore serves as the regional arm of Calgary-based WestJet Airlines 

The union and WestJet engaged in a two-week period of negotiations following the union’s rejection of a tentative contract earlier this month. The deal was rejected by 53% of participating Encore pilots, who were “underwhelmed by WestJet Group’s attempts at using compensation to gloss over many of the core structural issues of the operation”. 

”Some progress has been made; however, both sides remain apart on addressing the issues of central importance to the pilot group,” ALPA said at the time. 

Carin Kenny, chair of the WestJet Encore master executive council, says the carrier would keep struggling to attract and retain pilots until management ”negotiates a contract that recognises the current labour market conditions in Canada’s airline industry”. 

With negotiations seemingly stalled, WestJet issued a lockout notice and warned of a potential work stoppage. 

”The decision to issue notice was not made lightly, and we sincerely apologise for the uncertainty this causes for our guests and the Western Canadian regions that rely on WestJet Encore service,” says Diederik Pen, WestJet Group’s chief operating officer. “We are hopeful that guest disruption can still be prevented.” 

Now, the union will vote on a second tentative contract. Neither ALPA nor WestJet disclosed details on the agreement’s compensation and benefits.

“Our goal has always been to reach an agreement that will help solve many of the airline’s pilot attraction and retention issues, provide industry-standard wages and working conditions and provide a better work-life balance for our pilots,” Kenny says. “Over the coming days, our WestJet Encore membership will begin voting on the new tentative agreement.”

WestJet has been actively negotiating a new contract for pilots with its regional carrier since September 2023. WestJet Encore operates a fleet of De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400s out of Calgary International airport.