WestJet pilots are set to receive a 24 per cent pay bump over four years under an agreement in principle between the airline and the union, according to a tentative agreement summary obtained by PAX.
According to the document – which is being circulated among WestJet employees – pilots will receive a 15.5 per cent hourly pay raise this year retroactive to Jan. 1 upon ratification of the deal.
The summary also outlines a cumulative 8.5 per cent boost to hourly wages over the remainder of the contract, from 2024 through 2026.
The same document, as PAX reported last week, also includes a term that would require Swoop's flight operations to be fully integrated into WestJet’s mainline by October 2024.
Integration of WestJet’s low-cost subsidiary would be begin with five tail transfers this fall, the summary states.
The agreement has not yet been formalized – both parties are awaiting a ratification vote to be put forward to membership.
Bargaining between the WestJet Group and Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) came down to the eleventh hour, with WestJet cancelling more than 230 flights in preparation for strike action before a deal was reached a couple of hours ahead of the strike deadline on May 19.
On the wage hike, consultant Rick Erickson told CP that it sets the bar high.
“That's a pretty substantive boost - particularly this year's 15.5 per cent pay hike,” said Erickson, managing director of R.P. Erickson and Associates. "You can bet that Air Canada's pilot union will be looking at this very, very closely," as well as other groups such as flight attendants.
The WestJet deal may also make it harder for budget airlines Flair Airlines and Lynx Air to retain pilots.
“Does it make sense for me to stay here where I am? Or should I move over to one of the majors where I'll get paid better for it but have completely different working circumstances?'” Erickson asked, paraphrasing pilots who would have higher pay but lower seniority on arrival at a large airline.
Job security, scheduling and compensation were among the key issues raised in the ALPA’s negotiations with WestJet over the past eight months.
Speaking on an episode of the PIREP podcast earlier this month, Capt. Bernard Lewall, chair of the WestJet ALPA Master Executive Council, said the Agreement in Principle that has been signed with WestJet will “serve us really well.”
He said issues of scope and compensation have been addressed, noting that WestJet pilots now have a pension option.
In terms of value, the ALPA, which represents more than 1,800 pilots at WestJet and Swoop, has managed to capture an additional $400 million dollars of “new money” for WestJet pilots over four years, said Captain Chris Tholl, who also appeared on the podcast.
The contract will also help solve WestJet’s pilot attraction and retention issues, the union says.