November 10, 2023
Participants for AMFA:
Bret Oestreich – National President
Will Abbott – National 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
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 (WJA). This is the only official authorized source of negotiating communications by the Committee.
On November 7-9, 2023, WestJet and AMFA representatives met in Toronto, Canada, to continue negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement. The negotiations were led by AMFA Region II Director Will Abbott and WestJet Senior Manager, Labour Relations Virginia Swindall.
We regret to report that the negotiating sessions were disappointing both in tone and substance. WestJet negotiators frequently relied on “industry standards” to justify the carrier’s proposals; however, when AMFA negotiators cited WestJet contracts with other employee groups as the basis for our proposals, the response was frequently dismissive or even derisive. In AMFA’s view, basic benefits – such as the need to care for a newborn child – should not be lower because an employee is an AME and not a pilot.
In substance, the Company made proposals that could be fairly regressive. For example, WestJet seeks to eliminate an AME’s right to perform part-time aircraft maintenance work for another employer. WestJet seeks to eliminate the current entitlement, under Company policy, for paid leave to attend a court hearing pursuant to a subpoena. It seeks to change the progressive discipline standard long established within the TechOps department.
The greater part of the three-day negotiating session was dedicated to reviewing Company proposals designed to avert litigation over WestJet’s implementation of a new Operations Manager (OM) position that has usurped the job duties of the Aircraft Maintenance Lead (AML) classification, which the Canada Industrial Review Board (CIRB) has certified AMFA to represent. Prior to these negotiations, AMFA had agreed to delay the filing of charges with the CIRB, and WestJet had agreed to pause further implementation of the OM program while the parties explored a negotiated resolution.
One element of the WestJet proposal showed some promise. The Company proposed an article that would prohibit management performance of our work subject to exceptions based on operational emergencies and certain legal obligations.
Unfortunately, the Company simultaneously proposed the replacement of the existing Aircraft Maintenance Lead (AML) and Inspector Crew Lead (ICL) positions with a new Operational Lead (OL) position, which the Company described as an “ICL-plus” classification. The effect of the proposal would be to formally eliminate the AML position and shift the lion’s share of its functions outside of our bargaining unit to the OM. It is AMFA’s position that the proposal is unlawful.
Because it is our preference to negotiate, rather than to litigate, solutions to such labor-management disputes, AMFA plans to submit a counterproposal to WestJet in the coming week. If the matter cannot be resolved in a satisfactory manner, the Union intends to file charges under the Canada Labour Code with the CIRB.
In our view, this work jurisdiction dispute presents serious safety issues. Our members have described a “disarray” within the maintenance department, with Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (AMEs) uncertain about whom to turn to provide the coordination and troubleshooting necessary to ensure airworthiness. The OM program has also created hostility among co-workers, with many AMEs perceiving OMs as scabs who have conspired to steal bargaining unit work and diminish their future career opportunities.
The WestJet flight schedule has grown dramatically, yet our maintenance staffing remains below pre-COVID levels. Overtime has soared and AMEs are enduring levels of fatigue that are detrimental to aviation safety. There could not be a worse time to eliminate our AMLs and ICLs.
Your negotiators have made the OM/AML-ICL dispute a top priority and the Union’s full resources will be committed to resisting this assault on our craft.
Thank you to the many YYZ AMEs who attended the opening day of negotiations to support the Negotiating Committee and assisted in the formulation of proposals.
The parties agreed that negotiations would proceed with the next session, commencing December 6-8, 2023, in Halifax. Again, 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 collective bargaining agreement your hard work deserves. Your AMFA representatives will provide regular updates throughout the negotiating process. Thank you for your support.
AMFA-WestJet Negotiating Committee