April 26, 2018 / 3:14 AM / a year ago

WestJet Airlines pilots begin strike authorization vote

April 25 (Reuters) - Pilots at Canada’s WestJet Airlines Ltd , represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), started voting on a strike authorization on Wednesday saying an agreement with WestJet management is yet be reached.

The vote, which was triggered after more than six months of negotiations, will remain open for 15 days, ALPA said in a statement bit.ly/2vL0Dqv.

The statutory 60-day federal conciliation period ends on April 27. The pilots are permitted to strike after a 21-day cooling-off period that begins after that date, right before a busy summer travel season, the union said.

ALPA, which represents more than 60,000 pilots at 34 airlines in the United States and Canada, said it aimed to avoid a possible May 19 strike, but were prepared for all outcomes.

“A strike authorization vote is a common step by unions in context of the overall labor negotiation process,” WestJet said in a statement.

“We remain focused on successfully negotiating an agreement that will benefit our pilots and WestJet,” it said.

Earlier this month, WestJet Chief Executive Ed Sims said he aimed to reach a first agreement with unionized pilots this year, in a break with the carrier’s former CEO Gregg Saretsky, who said he did not expect a first contract before 2019.

In February, ALPA had filed a labor complaint against the Calgary-based commercial airline for bypassing the union during hiring at the airline’s new ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC) Swoop, among other issues.

ALPA said the pilots who work for the new no-frills carrier should earn the same rates as the men and women who fly WestJet planes. (Reporting by Shalini Nagarajan in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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