On Thursday, WestJet announced that it was able to reach an agreement with the international pilots union known as ALPA (Airline Pilot Association). This agreement will save more than 1,000 pilot positions at the airline, as well as at subsidiaries WestJet Encore and Swoop. Before this announcement, the airline had confirmed that 1,700 pilots across WestJet and its subsidiaries had received layoff notifications effective either May 1 or June 1 of this year.
“I’m pleased that ALPA and WestJet, through robust negotiations and collaboration have come together to minimize the impact of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic on our pilot groups,” –Jeff Martin, WestJet Executive Vice-President, and Chief Operating Officer
Better positioned for recovery
Mr. Martin continued by saying that the company’s pilots would be a critical element of its recovery. Retaining these positions will allow the airline group to recover more easily “and return WestJet to a global airline.”
On the other side of the agreement is ALPA Master Executive Council Chair, representing WestJet and Swoop, Captain Dave Colquhoun. Colquhoun says that the agreement was a result of everyone making sacrifices to protect the airline. He continued by saying:
“ALPA’s elected leadership appreciates the time and effort that was involved in working together to minimize the impact to our members and we look forward to the time when all of our pilots, and many of the other WestJetters who are casualties of this crisis, are back to work at WestJet.”
WestJet says that this latest agreement will enable the WestJet family of companies to retain pilots across the three groups, through the amendment of terms to the current contracts.
Leaning on government assistance
WestJet is also utilizing the Government of Canada’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to assist its efforts in protecting its workforce.
The CEWS will provide 75% of employee wages for up to 12 weeks, retroactive from March 15 to June 6, 2020, the government’s website states. This wage subsidy was designed to enable companies to re-hire workers previously laid off as a result of COVID-19 and help prevent further job losses.
Cooperation is key in a crisis such as this – especially as the current situation is neither the fault of the employees nor management. We are seeing other airlines show similar forms of cooperation with their employees. This week, Lufthansa’s pilots offered to sacrifice up to 45 percent of their salaries over the next two years. In return, the staff members are seeking the securement of their positions.
Now that 1,000 WestJet-group pilots will keep their jobs, a big question will be, “what will these pilots be doing if they aren’t flying?” Certainly, WestJet was cutting these positions due to a lack of demand. This level of demand will remain low for quite some time. Will there just be a more spaced-out rotation and relaxed work schedule? Will some pilots collect a paycheque from home?
Simple Flying asked WestJet for details. However, at the time of publishing, no response has been received.