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

Scooters lined up for an educational event in Stuart Park on Wednesday, June 16. (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News)
Free e-scooter safety training in Kelowna

Shared e-scooter operators collaborate to educate riders

The suspect reportedly assaulted a security guard and robbed him. The incident happened at a Kelowna hotel. (Contributed)
Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Employees at Playtime Casino wait outside while firefighters inspect the building after a small storage room fire on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News).
Small fire at Kelowna’s Playtime Casino as staff preps to re-open

Fire ignited in the storage room, but the staff were able to put it out

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

A mother stands with her daughter, visiting senior parents but observing social distancing with a glass door between them.  The granddaughter puts her hand up to the glass, the grandfather and grandmother doing the same.  A small connection in a time of separation during the Covid-19 pandemic (Valley First/Contributed).
Have your say on which Okanagan, Thompson, Similkameen charities get donation

Valley First seeks public help to distribute $250,000 to local charities via social media campaign

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

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

Vernon Courthouse. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Sentencing delayed in North Okanagan child pornography case

Man who pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography will have new sentence date fixed next week

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

People decided to tag Skaha Bluffs rocks which the Ministry has to go in and now clean up. (Facebook)
Bluffs at popular Penticton rock climbing park defaced

Ministry of Environment is going to clean it up

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

Most Read