Sunwing knew the company was about to sell to Westjet during business talks, the pilots union alleges

The union representing pilots for discount airline Sunwing filed a formal complaint with the Canadian Council on Industrial Relations alleging that the company negotiated a recent business deal in bad faith because it knew a sale of the airline to Westjet was on the table.

Unifor struck a deal with the airline on behalf of the 451 pilots they represent, which brought modest pay increases and improvements to other benefits. When the deal was ratified in February, it was hailed as an agreement that would bring some stability to all parties in what had been the ups and downs for a few years for the airline industry.

But that optimism began to fade when the airline announced a few weeks later that it had agreed to be acquired by Calgary-based Westjet.

The union alleges that the airline’s management knew that a takeover offer was being prepared, and had they shared this with the union during negotiations, they would not have made the concessions they had made.

As such, the union is filing a formal complaint with the Canadian Council on Industrial Relations alleging that the company was compromising in bad faith by not disclosing its impending sale.

“It was critical for the union to receive assurances from the employer that it was not discussing a sale of WestJet, as any potential sale would have had significant consequences for the union’s positions regarding bargaining,” the lawsuit said.

CBC News has reached out to Sunwing and Westjet for comment. Those requests were not returned.

Overflowing baggage trolleys have become a regular sight at Canadian airports recently, with sightings like this one at Toronto’s Pearson Airport on June 29 across the country. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

While Unifor initially welcomed the merger, they have since said the company is seeking more savings through contract violations as flights mount once again from the pandemic doldrums.

“What we would like to do is reconsider the areas of the collective agreement that would have been discussed and negotiated differently had the airline come to us and been honest that these discussions were ongoing,” said Barrett Arman, president of Unifor Local 7378. , who represents the pilots, in an interview with CBC News.

The union says it has no objection to the merger, but simply wants to ensure that Sunwing pilots will be on a level playing field with other Westjetters if and when it does.

“The company said it’s a great plan to expand,” Arman said. “We think it’s a great idea provided there is a pay parity and they will agree to any deals we come up with.” “At the end of the day, our pilots don’t want to be thrown out onto the street to start over.”

airport chaos

The two companies said earlier that Sunwing’s merger with Westjet was due to be completed by the end of this year.

It is not immediately clear what the board’s registration means for the prospect of the deal being completed. It already faces several regulatory hurdles, including from Canada’s Competition Bureau, which has already said it plans to review the deal to make sure it’s a good thing for consumers.

Watch | Why air travel in Canada is so difficult right now:

The reasons for the staff shortage were attributed to the long security queues at Canadian airports

Long security queues at many Canadian airports are the result of staff shortages, according to officials. The union representing examination officers suggests that recruitment and staff retention challenges would be resolved if staff were better trained and paid higher.

The potential for labor conflict is another piece of bad news for the Canadian travel industry, which has been plagued by staff shortages, long queues, rampant delays and baggage headaches amid the pandemic.

Arman puts most of the blame for what is happening at Canadian airports now squarely at the feet of the airlines themselves, which have cut staff during the pandemic, begged for help from the government, and are now scrambling to step in again.

“All of this is a factor of corporate layoffs for everyone and [now] “Can you come to work for us?” Arman said.

John Griddick, a former Air Canada CEO who is now a lecturer in the aviation industry at McGill University in Montreal, told CBC News on Monday that he expects these problems to persist at least through the summer.

“Unless you have a high risk tolerance, it probably isn’t the time to travel,” Gradec said. “Patience is the operative word.”

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