August 5, 2015 / 9:05 PM / in 3 years

WestJet pilots vote against forming a union

(Reuters) - Pilots at WestJet Airlines Ltd (WJA.TO) have voted down a plan to form a union, the airline said on Wednesday, blocking what would have been the first union at Canada’s No. 2 airline.

A Westjet Boeing 737-700 takes off at the International Airport in Calgary, Alberta, May 3, 2011. REUTERS/Todd Korol

The WestJet Professional Pilots Association group said on its Facebook page that 1,247 pilots voted, and 55 percent voted “no,” while 45 percent voted “yes.”

Pilots at most major airlines in Canada and the United States are unionized. WestJet, founded in 1996, is one exception.

The airline has enjoyed relatively cordial relations with its workers, and boasts about its “friendly WestJetters” and its employee share purchase plan, calling its workers “owners.”

But in recent years there have been some signs of discord, including union organizing drives among both pilots and flight attendants.

WestJet has negotiated labor agreements with associations that represent pilots and flight attendants, and given employees a chance to vote on those agreements. But because the associations are not unions, their power is extremely limited - for example, they cannot strike.

In November 2013, WestJet pilots voted down a tentative labor agreement endorsed by the WestJet Pilots’ Association, a separate pilots’ group backed by management. Management and the association went back to the table and workers approved a new agreement in December 2014.

Reporting by Julie Gordon and Allison Martell; Editing by Chris Reese and Frances Kerry

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