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WestJet strikes tentative deal with its 1,200 pilots; vote slated for December

11/17/2014 07:13 EST | Updated 01/17/2015 05:59 EST
CALGARY - WestJet says it has reached a tentative agreement with its more than 1,200 non-union pilots, represented by the WestJet Pilot Association.

No details were announced, but the airline said highlights of the deal would be made available in early December and that voting would begin later in the month.

"This is a collaborative agreement that will ensure WestJet remains fully competitive into the future, while providing our pilots with an industry-leading agreement," WestJet president and CEO Gregg Saretsky said in announcing the deal Monday.

"This agreement represents WestJet's commitment to work directly with the WJPA on behalf of pilots, based on our shared interests and for the good of the airline."

WestJet and the pilots' association began negotiations in September 2014 to replace the previous agreement, which has been in place since May 2009.

"We recommend this tentative agreement for our membership to review and vote on in December," WJPA co-chairs Michael Wesolowski and Paul Ysselmuiden said in a statement that said the association represents more than 1,300 pilots.

"We are encouraged that through this agreement, WestJet leadership has recognized the value that our pilots bring to the company's overall continued success," they added.

Late last month, Air Canada's 3,000 pilots voted to ratify a 10-year contract that included a large signing bonus, wage increases of more than 20 per cent over the life of the pact and an improved profit-sharing formula that Canada's largest airline says provides stability to support growth.

Some of the promised benefits are contingent on the carrier achieving its profit and growth targets, but union president Capt. Craig Blandford said at the time that those goals should be achievable.

The Air Canada agreement included a $10,000 signing bonus, two per cent annual wage increases, higher starting pay, improved pension benefits and improved profit sharing. In addition to a signing bonus and general annual wage increases, pilots will receive two per cent cash bonuses in both 2016 and 2017.

Starting wages will increase about three per cent to $50,000 and reach $62,000 by the fourth year. These wages will apply to pilots at both Air Canada and the airline's low-cost carrier Rouge.

More senior Rouge pilots will earn less than mainline pilots, but have higher overtime rates, fly more hours and have the ability to move more quickly to captain. An Air Canada Boeing 777 captain with 12 years experience can earn up to nearly $300,000 a year.

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