October 6, 2023
Participants for AMFA:
Bret Oestreich – National President
Will Abbott – Region II Director
Ian Evershed –Airline Representative
Simon Weizman – Member-at-Large Negotiator
Lee Seham– Legal Counsel
Samuel Seham– Legal Counsel
Participants for WestJet Airlines:
Virginia Swindall – Senior Manager, Labour Relations
Alex Hunt – Corporate Counsel – Labour Relations
John Romane – Director of Line Maintenance
Darren Cook– Manager Line Maintenance
Sarah Iverson – Labour Relations Advisor
Sara Nuhn – Lead Coordinator, Tech-ops
Gandeephan Ganeshalingam – VP Technical Operations
The AMFA-WestJet Negotiating Committee (the “Committee”) is providing this update to the Membership at WestJet Airlines (“WestJet”). This is the only official authorized source of negotiating communications by the Committee.
On October 3 through 5, 2023, WestJet and AMFA representatives met in Toronto, ON to continue negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The negotiations were led by AMFA Region II Director Will Abbott and WestJet Senior Manager, Labour Relations, Virginia Swindall.
At the first morning session, fourteen (14) WestJet AMEs stood directly behind the union negotiating team as AMFA reiterated its request that these members be permitted to attend bargaining sessions as silent observers. WestJet again objected to the presence of their employees but politely greeted them and shook their hands. Throughout the negotiations, these members participated in AMFA caucuses that reviewed and developed responses to Company proposals. AMFA drew upon their expertise with respect to actual workplace practice and employee preferences concerning such issues as leaves of absence and seniority accrual.
In advance of the negotiations, both parties had prepared proposals for contract articles relating to non-economic issues. Parties generally commence with non-economic issues because they tend to be somewhat less contentious and afford an opportunity to build positive momentum. It is anticipated that the final CBA will consist of forty (40) or more separate articles.
In formulating its proposals, AMFA draws upon a library of contracts, including AME CBAs throughout the North American airline industry as well as the CBAs of other unions with which WestJet has concluded agreements. It has been a frequently articulated table position that, particularly with respect to non-economic issues, the terms of our CBA should be no less favorable than those extended to ALPA.
By the conclusion of the three-day session, the parties had reached tentative agreements (TA’s) with respect to eight (8) separate contract articles. A TA refers to the fact that the parties have reached an agreement on that article and the lead negotiators for each side initial the document to indicate that it has been “put to bed.” Although both parties reserve the right to re-visit a TA prior to reaching a comprehensive agreement, the practice is generally frowned upon and could be indicative of bad faith bargaining that is not permitted under the Canadian Labour Code. The articles that were TA’ed were the following: (1) Grievances, (2) Arbitration, (3) Union-Management Meetings, (4) Probation, (5) Respectful Workplace, (6) Copies of Agreement, (7) Deduction of Dues, and (8) Duration. With respect to this last article, the parties agreed to the general language of the article without specifying the actual number of years the agreement would remain in effect.
AMFA considers the three-day session to have been productive with the caveat that the parties have commenced with the less controversial contract articles.
The tone at the table, which was cordial, contrasts with a string of controversies that we are facing in the workplace and in legal venues. WestJet continues in its efforts, via federal court litigation, to chip away at our bargaining unit. AMFA persists with its litigation before the CIRB alleging that WestJet unlawfully diminished benefits previously extended to the AMEA. AMFA has also demanded information from the Company justifying its introduction of OM positions that are performing work traditionally performed by our bargaining unit members. AMFA also advised WestJet that it is responsible for properly reimbursing our members for their contributions to the AMEA legal fund.
The parties agreed that negotiations would proceed with the next session to be held November 7-9, 2023, in Toronto, ON. We encourage you to attend and participate in the AMFA caucuses.
Stay engaged, remain informed, and continue to support the Negotiating Committee as that support increases the ability to bargain a CBA your hard work deserves. Your AMFA representatives will provide regular updates throughout the negotiating process. Thank you for your support.
AMFA-WestJet Negotiating Committee