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

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Jack Sutter’s show Shapes in Metal is currently on display in one of the side 
galleries at the Revelstoke Visual Arts Centre. (Contributed)
Art for everyone: Variety of artists currently at Revelstoke gallery show

See water colours, photographs and metal sculptures until June 25

The CP station at Glacier was built in 1916. It is located at the western end of the Connaught Tunnel in Glacier National Park. This photo was taken in mid-June, 2021. (Contributed)
LETTER: Historic but not preserved

Submit letters to the editor to jocelyn.doll@revelstokereview.com

Tania McCabe is the city’s director of finance. (File photo)
What’s going on with my property taxes? Q&A with Tania McCabe

Deadline to pay property taxes in Revelstoke is July 2 this year

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

The Pierre family, an Indigenous family, once lived in what is now downtown Summerland. Today, Pierre Drive is named in honour of the family. (Photo courtesy of the Summerland Museum)
Pierre family played role in Summerland’s history

Downtown Summerland was once Penticton Indian Reserve #3

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Jaimee Peters photo of a Willow Midwives helping with a birth. Willow closed its doors March 31 because of a shortage of midwives. (Contributed)
South Okanagan’s only midwifery to re-open this summer

Willow Community Midwives was forced to close because of a shortage of midwives

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Most Read