February 9, 2018 / 3:40 PM / 2 years ago

WestJet pilots file labor complaint over hiring at new budget airline

MONTREAL, Feb 9 (Reuters) - The union representing pilots at WestJet Airlines Ltd said on Friday it filed a labor complaint against Canada’s No. 2 commercial airline, potentially raising tensions during negotiations for their first collective agreement.

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) said in a statement it filed an unfair labor practice with the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) against WestJet for bypassing the union during hiring at the airline’s new ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC) Swoop, among other issues.

ALPA said it also filed an application for an interim order and said they hope to get a CIRB ruling in the coming weeks. It was not clear what the order was seeking, and union and airline officials were not immediately available for comment.

Analysts have raised concerns about the pilots’ recent decision to unionize at a time when Canada’s WestJet is adding international flights and launching Swoop.

Swoop is expected to start service as a separate carrier operated by WestJet in June.

“Management’s actions are a clear violation of the Canada Labour Code, and we urge the CIRB to order them to cease and desist,” Rob McFadyen, chairman of WestJet’s ALPA Master Executive Council said in a statement.

WestJet was not immediately available for comment.

During a recent call with analysts, WestJet Chief Executive Officer Gregg Saretsky said the carrier estimated it needs around 200 captains to staff Swoop’s planned fleet of 40 aircraft. The Calgary-based company said it would prefer to hire the majority of the pilots from its existing WestJet pilot list. (Reporting by Allison Lampert; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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