WestJet mechanics strike one day after federal labour minister imposes binding arbitration

WestJet mechanics have gone on strike one day after Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan directed the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) to impose final binding arbitration to resolve the outstanding issues of the collective agreement between the airline and the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA).

In a statement Friday, AMFA said WestJet mechanics went ahead with strike action against the company, but the union remains engaged in dialogue with the CIRB to resolve the impasse.

“The AME’s were hopeful this action would be unnecessary but the airline’s unwillingness to negotiate with the union made the strike,” the statement reads.

In a statement Thursday, AMFA said there is no modern precedent for the minister’s action. However, the union said it will comply with the order and directed its members to avoid any unlawful job action.

O’Regan  previously referred WestJet and AMFA to the CIRB on June 18, but the two sides were unable to reach an agreement.

WestJet responded to AMFA going ahead with a strike on Friday, saying it is “outraged” with the move.

“The government has officially stepped in to provide binding arbitration and ensure we get to a resolution; the only reason for this union to continue with a strike action is to create damage, disrupt the travel plans of thousands of Canadians over the July long weekend and to inflict significant costs on our business,” said company president Diederik Pen in a statement.

“Given arbitration has been ordered, a strike has no leverage on the arbitration’s outcome, so it is pure retaliation of a disappointed union.”

The Calgary-based carrier began to cancel flights ahead of a potential strike prior to the minister’s order. Roughly 25 trips scheduled for Thursday and Friday were called off in anticipation of possible job action by AMFA.

More to come