WestJet issues 72-hour lockout notice to mechanics union and prepares to shorten schedule

CALGARY – WestJet has issued a 72-hour lockout notice to the union representing its mechanics, warning that a work stoppage could happen as early as Tuesday.

The Calgary-based airline said in a statement that the decision follows an announcement of a strike vote by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, which represents approximately 670 aircraft maintenance engineers and skilled trade groups at the airline.

The union is currently negotiating its first collective agreement with the airline and has warned travelers in social media posts not to book with WestJet in the near future, “as a work stoppage could lead to unwanted delays and disruptions.”

Wages, outsourcing, planning and dismissal protection have been mentioned by the union as issues in the negotiations.

WestJet president Diederik Pen said in the airline’s statement that the decision to issue a lockout notice was not taken lightly, but that the union continues to show up at the bargaining table with what he calls “unreasonable demands and expectations.”

The statement said WestJet made an offer to the union that would make WestJet maintenance technicians the highest paid in Canada.

“With AMFA publicly issuing a strike warning last week and publicly ordering guests to fly with other airlines, we cannot allow the unpredictable nature and lack of progress to continue. We have no alternative but to issue a lockout notice to try to bring this to a final resolution,” Pen said in the statement.

WestJet said the 72-hour lockout period does not mean there will be travel disruptions. But it said it will take steps in the coming days to mitigate the potential impact, such as preparing for a shorter schedule and offering flexible change and cancellation options for customers.

The strike vote will last until Thursday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2024.

The Canadian Press