WestJet and pilots union reach tentative agreement

Canadian budget carrier WestJet Airlines Ltd. says it has reached a tentative agreement with the WestJet Pilots’ Association (WJPA), which represents more than 1,200 of the company’s pilots.

Voting on the agreement will take place later in November. Canada’s second-largest airline after Air Canada said the highlights of the agreement will be published in early December.

WestJet President and CEO Gregg Saretsky said:

“This is a collaborative agreement that will ensure WestJet remains fully competitive into the future, while providing our pilots with an industry-leading agreement.”

“This agreement represents WestJet’s commitment to work directly with the WJPA on behalf of pilots, based on our shared interests and for the good of the airline.”

Fred Cleveland, WestJet Executive Vice-President, Operations, said the company’s management and the pilots’ union worked diligently to find creative solutions that addressed both productivity and flexibility concerns as well as better compensation.

WestJet Pilots' Association

WJPA’s leadership recommends its members approve the tentative agreement.

WestJet executives and the WJPA started negotiations in September to develop a tentative agreement to replace the existing one, which has served the company and employees since May 2009.

WJPA co-chairmen Paul Ysselmuiden and Michael Wesolowski said they recommend the tentative agreement to their membership to review and vote on. “We are encouraged that through this agreement, WestJet leadership has recognized the value that our pilots bring to the company’s overall continued success,” they added.

Earlier in November, WestJet posted higher 3rd quarter earnings. CEO Gregg Saretsky pledged to reduce fares further – a comment that did not go down well with investors.

WestJet says it is expanding into international routes but stresses that cheap fares are still its core business.

Mr. Saretsky said:

“I am loathe to take any fare increases. Our whole ethos here is to provide Canadians with access to affordable travel, so we are all motivated to continue to move fares down, and that requires us to take cost out of our business.”

Air Canada’s 3,000 pilots voted in October in favor of a 10-year contract that included a large bonus scheme, pay increases of 20% over the pact’s life, and a better profit-sharing arrangement.