For Immediate Release
|Bret Oestreich, National President
Samuel Seham, Esq.
Mark Denesuk, Media Contact
WESTJET ACKNOWLEDGES “SERIOUS AND EMERGING CONCERN” WITHIN MAINTENANCE OPERATIONS
ENGINEERS UNION INITIATES LEGAL ACTION TO COUNTER “TROUBLING REDUCTION” IN MAINTENANCE OVERSIGHT
CENTENNIAL, Colo. – December 11, 2023 – On December 11, 2023, the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) filed unfair labour practice charges against WestJet Airlines (WJA) with the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB). On March 30, 2023, the CIRB certified AMFA as the representative of the airline’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (AMEs) and all other skilled aircraft maintenance employees.
The dispute concerns WestJet’s unilateral creation of the new position of Operations Manager (OM) and the transfer to that position of safety-sensitive maintenance coordination work previously performed by bargaining unit members. The OM positions have been largely filled with former Aircraft Maintenance Leads (AMLs) who had been included within the CIRB-certified bargaining unit. AMFA’s charges allege that WestJet’s actions have “caused disarray within maintenance operations and hostility among co-workers whose integrated efforts are critical to maintenance safety culture.” (Attachment A).
WestJet managers have recognized the disruptive impact of the company’s actions. In an email dated November 10, WestJet’s Senior Manager, Labour Relations Virginia Swindall sought AMFA’s immediate “intervention in de-escalating” a “serious and emerging concern” relating to its Toronto maintenance operations. According to Swindall, WestJet’s Manager, Line Maintenance Darren Cook reported that a Toronto AME was “passionately advising our employees to ‘Fuck the OMs’, etc.” (Attachment B).
In a November 13 letter seeking to resolve the dispute, AMFA Region II Director Will Abbott advised WestJet that its actions had “sown dissension within the department with AMEs perceiving former AMLs who have accepted OM positions as scabs who have betrayed the bargaining unit and cut off their brother AMEs from economic opportunities.” (Attachment C).
“The safe performance of aircraft maintenance requires professionalism and mutual trust,” commented AMFA National President Bret Oestreich. “By its own admission, the airline’s actions have led to emotion and hostility within its maintenance operations. WestJet aircraft maintenance professionals unionized because they felt disrespected by the carrier and dismissed the AME’s critical contributions as a stakeholder to WestJet operations. Now, WestJet seems to be methodically rubbing salt into the wound.”
“At several stations, we have witnessed a troubling reduction in lead oversight of maintenance operations,” added Oestreich. “And this arises in a context where maintenance staffing at some stations remains below pre-COVID levels despite a post-COVID surge in flight volume. WestJet aircraft maintenance is headed in a direction inconsistent with safe operations.”
“Once the CIRB has certified a union, the law prohibits unilateral changes of status quo working conditions without prior negotiations with the union,” commented Samuel Seham, an attorney for AMFA. “This is particularly true with respect to the transfer of work outside the bargaining unit and the resulting loss of economic opportunities. To the extent that chaos now reigns within the airline’s maintenance operations, I attribute that chaos to what I consider to be WestJet’s unlawful conduct. We have commenced this CIRB action in the interest of our members and aviation safety.”
The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association is a craft-oriented, independent aviation union. AMFA represents licensed and unlicensed engineers/technicians and related employees actively involved in the aviation industry. These professionals work directly on aircraft and/or components, support equipment, and facilities. AMFA is committed to elevating the standing of and achieving progressive improvements in wages, benefits, and working conditions of the skilled professionals it represents. For more information about AMFA visit www.amfanational.org.