WestJet pilots get $2 million from union to help efforts to get first contract

MONTREAL _ WestJet pilots are marking their first year since choosing to unionize by receiving $2 million from the international union’s contingency fund to help with efforts to achieve a first collective agreement.

Capt. Rob McFadyen, chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association master executive council, says the money will help secure a contract that reflects the contribution of pilots to the airline’s success and record profits.

The Calgary-based airline and its pilots have been in contract negotiations since September. A 60-day conciliation process ends April 27.

The pilots could launch a strike following a 21-day cooling off period.

If the money is still required at that time, McFadyen says it will be used for a public campaign and other lawful preparations in Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto and elsewhere.

The grant announcement comes weeks after the Canada Industrial Relations Board issued an interim order for the airline to stop recruiting pilots through two-year leaves of absence to fly for its new ultra-low cost carrier Swoop.

ALPA said WestJet has tried to bypass the union by negotiating directly with pilots to fly for Swoop under different working conditions.