If no agreement is reached with the employer, WestJet workers in Calgary and Vancouver will strike starting July 27.
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Members of Unifor Local 531, which represents more than 700 baggage staff, customer service and guests at Calgary and Vancouver airports, voted 98% in favor of the strike.
The question of wages is central to the workers’ demands for their collective agreement. In a statement on Monday, Scott Doherty, Unifor’s assistant to national president, said “salaries have not increased in more than five years” and that “wages at WestJest are among the lowest in the industry.” with rising inflation.
The Federation also regrets the “extreme pressure” that would burden the staff and asks for support at this level. He claims that since the resumption of air travel in the spring, WestJest workers have faced “verbal abuse” and even “threats” from travelers whose flights have been delayed and canceled, even though they are not responsible for the decisions made by the carrier.
Negotiations have continued since October 2021 and several meetings with conciliators have already taken place.
“Two years of financial losses”
WestJet responded to this announcement in the process, with a press release. Angela Avira, the company’s vice president and head of human resources, believes this is a “common step in the collective bargaining process.”
“WestJet is committed to providing competitive compensation that recognizes the contributions of airport employees, while ensuring that the airline is able to return to profitability, after more than two years of unprecedented financial losses caused by the pandemic,” it added.
The company also clarified that the majority of its employees at the airport have been working with the company for less than a year, while the vast majority of airport employees with more years of experience have received increases. Under the current salary grade structure, in addition to the “Leadership of Canadian Industry” variable wages.
The strike vote was held on July 15 and 16 in Vancouver and July 18 and 19 in Calgary. Unifor will be required to serve WestJest with 72 hours’ notice of their intention to strike.