WestJet to use federal wage subsidy program to avoid pilot layoffs

WestJet to use federal wage subsidy program to avoid pilot layoffs

CALGARY — WestJet Airlines Ltd. says it will be able to save more than 1,000 pilot jobs by using the federal wage subsidy program.

The Calgary-based company said that pilots at WestJet, WestJet Encore and Swoop who were to be laid off either May 1 or June 1 due to the COVID-19 pandemic will remain on the payroll.

WestJet executive vice-president Jeff Martin said it made the announcement after reaching an agreement with the Airline Pilot Association (ALPA).

“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,” he said Thursday in a release.

“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.”

Martin said the agreement allows the WestJet Group of Companies to retain pilots by amending terms of current agreements with the association.

WestJet said it is using the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to help it through the pandemic.

Martin said while work is not available due to the downturn in demand for air travel, it will use the program to keep the inactive employees on the payroll to help ensure they remain connected to the company.

Earlier this month, WestJet said it planned to lay off 1,700 pilots — three-quarters of the cockpit roster — as the company struggled with fallout from the pandemic.

About 700 pilots were to receive layoff notices effective May 1, with 1,000 more kicking in on June 1, depending on employee seniority, according to ALPA.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 30, 2020.

The Canadian Press

WestJet

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