WestJet canceled 407 flights after a surprise union strike

TORONTO – Canada’s second-largest airline, WestJet, said it has cancelled 407 flights, affecting 49,000 passengers, after a maintenance workers’ union announced a strike.

The Fraternal Order of Aircraft Mechanics said its members began the strike Friday evening because “the airline’s unwillingness to negotiate with the union” made it inevitable.

The sudden strike, which affected international and domestic flights, came after the federal government issued a ministerial order for binding arbitration on Thursday. This came after two weeks of tumultuous discussions with the union regarding a new deal.

WestJet, Canada’s second-largest airline, has canceled more than 400 flights after a mechanics union strike. dad

WestJet said it will continue to park planes through Sunday during the long weekend that ends with Canada Day on Monday.

The airline says it has about 200 planes, and plans to operate about 30 planes by Sunday evening.

The airline’s CEO, Alexis von Honsbruch, blamed the situation on what he described as a “rogue consortium from the United States” that was trying to penetrate Canada.

As far as the airline was concerned, bargaining with the union was over once the government took the dispute to binding arbitration, von Hunsbruch said.

“This makes the strike absolutely ridiculous because the reason you strike is because you need to put pressure on the negotiating table,” he said. “If there is no bargaining table, it makes no sense, and there should be no strike.”

He added that the union rejected a contract offer that would have made the airline’s mechanics “the highest paid in the country.”

In an update to its members, the union’s bargaining committee pointed to an order from the Canadian Industrial Relations Board that does not explicitly prohibit any strikes or lockouts while the arbitration is being conducted.

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Sean McVey, an aircraft maintenance engineer at WestJet, who picketed Saturday at Toronto Pearson International Airport’s Terminal 3, said the strike is an attempt to force the airline to return to “respectful negotiations.”

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