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

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?

North Westside residents can dispose of their unwanted bulky items between June 30 and July 14, 2021. (File photo)
North Westside residents can soon get rid of unwanted bulky items

Large household items can be disposed of at North Westside Transfer Station June 30 to July 14

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D area. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control to Electoral Area D; director calls for respectful discussion

The new Civic Memorial Park will incorporate pieces of the 80-year-old arena it replaces. (Artists rendering)
Pieces of Civic Arena reclaimed for new Vernon park

City centre space to incorporate wood from the historic arena

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

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

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

Gord with a mom and her young son outside Pathways which was defunded on May 31. (Facebook)
Gord Portman with a mom and her child outside of Pathways. The sign says it all about the difference Pathways has made in people’s lives. They were defunded by Interior Health on May 31.
Penticton man takes the plunge for the recovery house that helped save his life

Gord Portman said Discovery House and Pathways have been everything in his 1 year sobriety

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

Most Read