A ground worker wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 unloads lobsters from a WestJet Airlines flight at Vancouver International Airport. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A ground worker wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 unloads lobsters from a WestJet Airlines flight at Vancouver International Airport. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

More than 500 WestJet employees unionize in Vancouver and Calgary

Workers said a change in workplace culture after the airline’s sale was a big part of the organization efforts

More than 500 WestJet employees in Vancouver and Calgary have unionized with Unifor, saying a change in workplace culture after the airline’s sale was a big part of the workplace organization efforts.

The 531 WestJet workers — which include airport agents such as customer service workers — join more than 7,000 other unionized airline workers with Unifor under carriers like Air Canada and Air Canada Jazz.

“You went from the perception of ‘we’re teammates, it’s a family culture,’ to being owned by Onex, which is a huge, huge company,” said Unifor president Jerry Dias, referencing WestJet’s owner, Onex Corp., which acquired the airline nearly two years ago.

“Onex operated different than the old WestJet for sure, one of the first things that happened was the unilateral outsourcing of so many jobs in some of the smaller bases.”

The union said the workplace organization efforts will help ensure that senior employees are the first to be called back in an eventual reopening of the airline industry.

WestJet said it has received notice of the union’s successful application and will work through the next steps with the national labour board.

“WestJet respects the individual rights of employees to choose their representation and will continue to work with the Canada Industrial Relations Board to provide the outstanding required information in response to the application,” said spokeswoman Morgan Bell in an email.

Unifor Organizing Director Kellie Scanlan said conversations with WestJet workers had been going on prior to the pandemic, and moved online after COVID-19 hit.

She said unionization efforts are continuing at WestJet’s bases in Toronto and Edmonton as well.

“We feel very optimistic about the future of both of those places,” said Scanlan, who said they’re working on getting more membership cards signed.

“This win shows WestJet workers across Canada that they too can gain a voice in the workplace.”

The union said workplace organization has been part of the successful lobbying effort for financial support for the airline industry from the federal government amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sherwin Antonio, a customer service agent with WestJet in Calgary, said the unionization will help protect workers during the uncertainty of the pandemic.

“This last year has been extremely difficult for WestJet employees,” said Antonio.

“Being part of a union will essentially put in place rules and processes for how a growing company handles such difficult times, to ensure fairness and respect for all in the workplace.”

The union filed their application to the Canada Industrial Relations Board last month, and the board certified Unifor as the bargaining agent for the workers on Thursday.

Unifor is one of Canada’s largest private sector union and represents more than 300,000 workers across the country. It represents more than 16,000 workers across the aviation industry.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

WestJet

Just Posted

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

Port Alberni RCMP officer in command Insp. Eric Rochette presents longtime community policing volunteer Louie Aumair with a OIC appreciation certificate. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni RCMP honour longtime volunteer

First responders receive support from broader community

The Dock+ is located on Harbour Road in Port Alberni. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
PROGRESS 2021: Port Alberni’s food hub still growing a year later

The Dock hopes to open a retail store on Alberni’s busy waterfront

Shanna Ramm of Mosaic is the first person to graduate with a Bachelor of Disability Management from Pacific Coast University-Workplace Health Sciences. Her convocation took place virtually on Dec. 1, 2020. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
PROGRESS 2021: Pacific Coast University celebrates with milestones

Alberni institution earns $6M return-to-work grant from province

The front entrance of West Coast General Hospital features a roundabout and a garden. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
PROGRESS 2021: West Coast General Hospital sees changing of the guard

New doctors are establishing practices in Port Alberni

t
How to tell if a call from ‘CRA’ is legitimate or a scam

Expert says it’s important to verify you really are dealing with the CRA before you give out any info

The courthouse in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo man, already in jail, found guilty of sexual abuse of sons

Man previously sentenced for sexual interference involving girl in Nanaimo

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Chilliwack cocaine trafficker Clayton Eheler seen with a tiger somewhere in Asia in 2014. Eheler was sentenced to nine years jail in 2018, but was released on bail in October 2020 pending his appeal of conviction.(Facebook)
Director of civil forfeiture seeks $140,000 from Fraser Valley drug dealer’s father-in-law

Clayton Eheler’s father-in-law Ray Morrissey caught with money in Fort St. John by B.C.’s gang unit

A Comox Valley shellfish operator pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000 in provincial court in Courtenay earlier this year. Record file photo
B.C. clam harvester fined $10,000 for Fisheries Act violations

Charges against three others were stayed in Courtenay Provincial Court

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Frank Phillips receives a visit from his wife Rena at Nanaimo Seniors Village on their 61st wedding anniversary, March 31, 2020. Social visits have been allowed since COVID-19 vaccination has been offered in all care homes. (Nanaimo News Bulletin)
B.C. prepares mandatory vaccination for senior care homes

180 more cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Friday, one more death

Most Read