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Apr 16, 2018

New WestJet CEO expects labour agreement with pilots by June

First on BNN: New WestJet CEO Ed Sims says constructive labour negotiations underway

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WestJet Airlines’ new chief executive said he believes a labour agreement will be struck with its pilots by June, as he seeks the “fastest settlement we can reach” before launching low-cost carrier Swoop.

Ed Sims, who replaced Gregg Saretsky in early March, said in an interview with BNN Monday that WestJet and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) – the union representing its pilots – have been making headway on negotiations.

“I think we’re at a situation right now where fortune will favour the brave. I think we’ve both got to be brave. We have to be very direct with each other,” Sims said. “Right now there’s a very constructive dialogue underway.”

Sims said however that he will not sign a deal that favours one group at the expense of another.

“I’ve made it plain to them on two counts; that one, I won’t negotiate in public. And two, I won’t negotiate a settlement that works to the benefit of one labour group that potentially works to the detriment of any other labour group across our organization,” Sims said.

“My primary focus is to ensure that we all have a long-term sustainable future focused on job security for everybody.”

WestJet and its pilots have been in negotiations for a first contract since September.

At issue in WestJet’s labour talks with the ALPA is the push by the Calgary-based carrier to launch Swoop on June 20.

The union alleges that WestJet violated provisions of the Canada Labour Code by directly negotiating with pilots instead of the union over employment at Swoop.

Sims said that WestJet is focused on maintaining the lowest possible cost base for Swoop.

“I’ve made it plain to the pilots’ union that I’m looking for a settlement. I’m looking for the fastest settlement that we can reach so we can all get on with building shareholder value, which is right at the heart of pilots’ interest,” Sims said. “They are the single-largest employee shareholder group.”

WestJet plans to launch Swoop with three aircraft in June, with service starting from Abbotsford, Hamilton, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Halifax.