WestJet Airlines and pilots resume contract negotiations in Calgary

WestJet Airlines Ltd. has resumed contract negotiations with its pilots in Calgary, where the airline is based.

Talks between the airline and pilots represented by the Air Line Pilots Association began Monday and moved from Halifax, where they took place last week, the airline said in an email.

Neither side would say if progress has been made.

The pilots were legally able to launch a strike last Saturday, but committed not to disrupt passenger travel plans over the Victoria Day long weekend as a goodwill gesture.

The union hasn’t issued a replacement date for a possible strike while talks continue.

“We have not received any notification of labour action and remain actively engaged in negotiations, which began again yesterday in Calgary,” spokeswoman Lauren Stewart said Tuesday.

The union tweeted a similar desire to reach the pilots’ first collective agreement.

“We are committed to reaching an agreement with management and will be at the bargaining table this week,” it said.

The ALPA represents about 1,500 pilots at WestJet’s main service.

WestJet has said its bargaining team is focused on getting a “sustainable agreement that benefits our pilots, WestJetters and the company as a whole.”

The airline has promised to refund tickets if flights are cancelled in the event of a strike.

WestJet has said that its bookings have slowed since the union said it would seek a strike mandate, which was supported by 91 per cent of its members.

The company warned earlier this month that its revenue per available seat mile will be flat- to negative two per cent this quarter due in part to the possible pilot strike.

Chris Murray of AltaCorp Capital said Tuesday that improving market conditions in Alberta should help WestJet, however the Calgary carrier is facing “a number of near-term labour and cost issues.”

The labour strife comes ahead of WestJet’s planned launch of its Swoop ultra-low cost carrier, which has been a source of contention between pilots and the company.

Earlier this year, the union won a Canada Industrial Relations Board challenge to the company’s proposed policy to offer pilots a two-year leave of absence if they go to fly for Swoop.

The ALPA complained that the policy was a significant change in the company’s terms of employment and an interference with the union’s right to represent the pilots.