WestJet, Canada’s second-largest airline, has finally brought an end to ongoing union negotiations regarding its cabin crew. The Calgary-based carrier announced yesterday that its cabin crew had ratified a collective agreement which will be in place for the next five years.
Agreement finally in place
After two years of talks, WestJet and its cabin crew have finally ratified a collective agreement covering more than 3,000 employees. The airline had initially reached a tentative agreement with CUPE Local 4070, a branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, earlier this month. The collective agreement will run for a period of just under five years.
It will be in place until December 31st, 2025, with the start date having been retroactively set as March 1st, 2021. Collective agreements serve to regulate workers’ terms and conditions of their employment. As such, in these increasingly uncertain times for commercial aviation, this news will come as a welcome relief to WestJet’s cabin crew.
Ed Sims, WestJet’s President and CEO, welcomed the ratification of the agreement. He said the following in the statement:
“We are pleased that we were able to achieve our first collective agreement with CUPE. The resulting agreement is a reflection of the interest-based bargaining required to achieve this positive outcome. It is a strong example of how we can work together, respectfully with dedication and professionalism, to benefit our employees and our guests during these challenging times.”
Regarding the lengthy nature of the airline’s discussions with the union, Sims added:
“The time invested in the negotiations by both parties, leading up to ratification, was necessary to work through the many complex terms and conditions.”
A month of mixed fortunes
The ratification of the collective agreement is one of several reasons that WestJet has had to be cheerful this month. Notably, the airline also celebrated its 25th birthday on March 1st. It did so by recreating its first-ever flight from Calgary to Vancouver. It even operated the special service using crew members that had been with the airline since its first day of operation.
However, March has also not been without a degree of turbulence for the carrier. Despite becoming the first Canadian airline to re-introduce the Boeing 737 MAX after its recertification, WestJet recently reduced its order for the type. All in all, the carrier has canceled 15 of its MAX orders, as it attempts to ‘right-size’ in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
A growing international partnership
The ratification comes at an exciting time for WestJet in terms of its international reputation. Although it has had to cut part of its Boeing 737 MAX order, it is pushing on with development in another area. Specifically, this newfound growth concerns its partnership with Atlanta-based US legacy carrier Delta Air Lines.
WestJet and Delta had previously attempted to establish a joint venture agreement. However, the airlines ultimately abandoned this project last November. This came as a result of “unreasonable and unacceptable demands” from the US Department of Transportation.
Nonetheless, the relationship between the two carriers remained close. As such, Simple Flying reported yesterday that the pair had launched enhanced reciprocal benefits for their elite members. This will help to establish a more seamless transborder network between the two airlines once such travel can resume.
What do you make of this latest breakthrough in WestJet’s union negotiations? Does this signify the start of a brighter period for the Canadian carrier? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.