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Union that represents WestJet pilots calls for strike vote to press for contract

Last Updated Apr 25, 2018 at 10:20 pm EDT

A pilot taxis a Westjet Boeing 737-700 plane to a gate after arriving at Vancouver International Airport on February 3, 2014. The union that represents pilots at WestJet has called for a strike vote to press its demand for a contract. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

CALGARY – The union that represents pilots at WestJet has called for a strike vote to press its demand for its first contract.

The Air Line Pilots Association says pilots began voting Wednesday and the balloting will continue for 15 days.

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 then launch a strike after a 21-day cooling off period.

Capt. Rob McFadyen, chairman of the association’s master executive council, says the two sides remain far apart on working conditions, compensation and job security.

McFadyen said the union’s bargaining proposals are reasonable and consistent with the contracts that other pilots within North America enjoy.

“Unfortunately, our management team believes there is no issue with outsourcing our work and our careers,” McFadyen said in a release.

“They expect us to just stand in place, be grateful to work for the company we helped build, and be willing to accept terms that are substandard compared to our peers.

“Our goal remains to reach a fair contract that also brings stability to the airline.”

WestJet CEO Ed Sims responded to the association’s release by noting a strike authorization vote is a common step taken by unions during labour negotiations.

“We remain focused on successfully negotiating an agreement that will benefit our pilots and WestJet,” Sims said in a release.

McFadyen said the pilots hope to avoid a strike and the union is still open to negotiating an agreement.

Companies in this story: (TSX:WJA)