July 21st, 2024

Travellers watch as WestJet cancels flights with no end to mechanics strike in sight

By The Canadian Press on June 29, 2024.

Travellers wait for flights at Calgary International Airport as WestJet mechanics strike in Calgary, Saturday, June 29, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY – Travellers flying with WestJet continue to watch as the airline cancels more flights due to a sudden strike by its mechanics union.

The Calgary-based airline says it’s now cancelled 407 flights over the Canada Day long weekend in an effort to “maintain stability.”

Most of the flights were cancelled on Saturday, with 282 trips on WestJet planes being called off.

“Every flight cancellation we are forced to issue represents hundreds of guests, who are being impacted by the continued reckless actions of this union,” said WestJet Airlines president Diederik Pen in a statement issued late Saturday night.

The flight cancellations come after the Airplane Mechanics Fraternal Association members walked off the job on Friday afternoon, stating WestJet’s “unwillingness to negotiate with the union made the strike inevitable.”

The job action comes after members of the union rejected a deal from WestJet earlier this month and after two weeks of tense negotiations between the two parties.

Following that, the federal government stepped in and mandated WestJet and the union to binding arbitration.

Friday’s strike action came as a surprise to many flying with WestJet, leaving travellers to wonder about whether or not they’ll be stranded far away from home.

“Major Delays, Phone Line Dead. “Unscheduled maintenance”, this isn’t good. I am sitting in YYC Lounge. Do I get to go home?” said Luke Antrim, who lives in Nanaimo, on X.

In an update to its membership, AMFA leadership posted a letter from the Canada Industrial Relations Board regarding its decision in which it said that the ministerial referral “does not have the effect of suspending the right to strike or lockout.”

That response prompted WestJet to say it’s “extremely outraged at these actions and will hold AMFA 100 per cent accountable for the unnecessary stress and costs incurred as a result.”

Federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan, who said the order from the Canada Industrial Relations Board was “clearly inconsistent” with the direction he provided, weighed in again on Saturday, telling both parties to collaborate with the board to get a deal done.

“There’s a lot at stake here. Canadians need this resolved,” he said on X.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2024.

– with files from Christopher Reynolds in Montréal

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