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WestJet, engineers' union avoid possible labour action

No additional flights will be cancelled.
Both WestJet and AMFA have been directed to a binding arbitration. WestJet / Facebook

A possible labour strike has been avoided at WestJet Airlines under the direction of the federal government.

The Minister of Labour asked the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) on Thursday afternoon to help the airline and the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) reach their first agreement through binding arbitration.

The AMFA represents aircraft maintenance engineers and technical operations employees at WestJet.

Both the airline and the union will resolve the outstanding terms of the collective agreement under the minister's direction. This means there will be no strike or lockout and no more flights will be cancelled.

The union issued its first strike notice last week, resulting in the cancellation of about 40 WestJet flights between June 18 and 20.

The notice was later withdrawn after a CIRB decision declined WestJet's attempt to stop the strike, and the employer subsequently agreed to set bargaining dates.

After just one day of renewed negotiations, talks fell through again, and the union issued a second strike notice causing about 25 flights to be cancelled in preparation for a labour action.

The airline acknowledged Thursday's direction from the federal government is to "secure industrial peace," reads WestJet's website.

AMFA also noted they will follow the minister's order.

"AMFA will comply with the Minister’s order and direct its members to refrain from any unlawful job action," said AMFA in a media statement.

Diederik Pen, president of WestJet Airlines and group chief operating officer, said the government's actions will protect the summer travel plans of Canadians and provide a path of resolution.

“We recognize the significant impact the initial cancellations continue to have on our guests and our people, and we sincerely appreciate their patience and understanding as we resume operations," said Pen.

Travellers who booked directly with WestJet will be informed about changes to existing travel through the email address provided at the time of booking, and those who booked through a travel agent or online booking agency should contact them directly.

Updates about flight status and travel changes will be provided on WestJet's Guest Updates page.

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