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WestJet Flight Cancellations Hit 410 as Surprise Mechanics Strike Enters Third Day

WestJet Flight Cancellations Hit 410 as Surprise Mechanics Strike Enters Third Day

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Canadian airline WestJet says it has been forced to cancel at least 410 flights ahead of Canada Day on Monday after mechanics at the Calgary-based carrier went on a surprise strike.

The strike started on Friday evening, with WestJet initially cancelling just 25 flights before mass disruption started on Saturday, with 150 cancellations and a further 235 cancelled flights on Sunday.

So far, the airline says that around 56,300 passengers have been impacted by the walk out, with hundreds more flights expected to be grounded in the coming days.

Mechanics represented by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) decided to down tools on Friday in a continuing dispute over pay and conditions, which has been dragging since the middle of last year.

Earlier this month, a Canadian labour court ordered the airline and union into binding arbitration in a bid to resolve the dispute, but the arbitration hearing date could take weeks to set, leaving the two sides in a kind of limbo.

WestJet has accused AMFA of taking advantage of that limbo to cause “irrevocable damage” to the travel plans of tens of thousands of passengers but the union says it simply wants to bring the airline back to the bargaining table.

Despite WestJet’s anger at the position it has found itself in, Canada’s labour courts have ruled that until the binding arbitration takes place, the airline’s mechanics can legally go on strike.

“This situation is devastating,” slammed WestJet’s president and chief operating officer Diederik Pen. “We are seeking every avenue for intervention and working around the clock to maintain a stable network, while we reduce our flying in a safe and controlled manner.” 

As tensions between the two sides ratcheted up, AMFA accused the airline of threatening to discipline workers engaged in a legal work stoppage. In response, the union has threatened to take legal action unless WestJet rescinds a letter that warns workers of repercussions if they go on strike.

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