Unifor, the union that represents over 700 baggage and customer service agents for WestJet at the Calgary and Vancouver Airport, is preparing to strike as early as next week.
The union has been bargaining for a pay scale increase and better wages, along with an acknowledgment of the “pressure-cooker atmosphere” at the airports, it said this week—members of Unifor have been complaining about burnout from their jobs, along with verbal abuse and physical threats from passengers who have been traveling during one of the most chaotic times in recent history.
The bargaining has been going on for nine months and this week its members voted to strike by 98% starting on July 27.
“The union is fighting for better wages,” said Scott Doherty, executive assistant to Unifor’s National President. “The pay scale has not been increased for more than five years, making WestJet’s wages among the lowest in the Canadian aviation industry and no match for soaring inflation. We are looking, not only for a fair deal that’s right for our members but for WestJet to comprehend how much of a pressure-cooker atmosphere it is for them.”
WestJet said that news was “not unexpected.” It is still working on contingency plans, including reassigning other employees, in order to keep operations steady if the strike does move forward.
In response to Unifor strike authorization, WestJet’s Angela Avery, Executive Vice-President and Chief People, Corporate and Sustainability Officer said the carrier remains “focused on successfully negotiating an agreement that provides value to our airport employees, many of whom have joined WestJet in the last year.”
“In the meantime, we will continue to provide our guests with the friendly and affordable air travel WestJet has always been known for,” she added.
Unifor is required to notify WestJet 72 hours ahead of time before they take any strike action.