‘Our pilots will be a critical element of our recovery and retaining these important roles leaves us better positioned to recover strongly’
WestJet has come to an agreement with the Airline Pilot Association (ALPA) to save from unemployment 1,000 of the 1,700 pilots it previously said are to be laid off from WestJet, WestJet Encore and Swoop amid the COVID-19 crisis.
WestJet is utilizing the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to keep the inactive employee on the payroll, said the company.
"I'm pleased that ALPA and WestJet, through robust negotiations and collaboration have come together to minimize the impact of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic on our pilot groups," said Jeff Martin, WestJet executive vice-president and CEO. "We thank ALPA for the joint effort in working with us to assist our airline in remaining flexible and competitive. Our pilots will be a critical element of our recovery and retaining these important roles leaves us better positioned to recover strongly and return WestJet to a global airline."
Both the airline and the association did not provide further details into the agreement.
“ALPA's elected leadership appreciates the time and effort that was involved in working together to minimize the impact to our members and we look forward to the time when all of our pilots, and many of the other WestJetters who are casualties of this crisis, are back to work at WestJet," said Dave Colquhoun, ALPA Master Executive Council chair, representing WestJet and Swoop.
In April, WestJet and Air Canada announced that they plan to rehire thousands of workers laid off because of COVID-19 using the CEWS. WestJet got 4,600 workers back on payroll while Air Canada affected about 15,200 of its unionized workforce who were put off duty and about 1,300 managers who were furloughed starting April 3.
WestJet’s latest announcement came after the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC) asked for immediate financial aid from the Canadian government as the aviation industry continues to face unprecedented challenges amid the pandemic.
Late in March, the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) sent an “urgent appeal” to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for the same support to the air transport industry.