Air Canada pilots will demonstrate Friday at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, calling for better pay and working conditions as talks continue with the country’s largest airline.
The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents more than 5,000 Air Canada aviators, began the bargaining process in June, a day after WestJet union colleagues ratified a new collective agreement.
Both the union and the employer say the so-called informational picket at Terminal 1, which comes on the same day their nine-year agreement expires, will not affect Air Canada’s flight schedule.
No strike is imminent, the pilots’ association said.
Charlene Hudy, who heads her Air Canada contingent, said the agreement has become “obsolete,” and some co-workers have left for the United States in search of better salaries.
“We are fighting to get this world-class contract that Air Canada pilots deserve,” he said, calling the pay gap across the border “unacceptable.”
“There was a time back in 2013 when we were quite comparable, almost equal, with our United counterparts.” But starting next year, United Airlines pilots will earn 92 percent more, he said.
Air Canada commits to reaching a ‘fair’ deal
Between March and September, pilots at Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and American Airlines won deals that included four-year pay increases ranging from 34 to 40 percent.
Since reaching a deal in 2014, Air Canada pilots have received a two per cent pay increase each year.
Hudy also highlighted career progression and job security as other points of contention.
Air Canada said it continues to engage in productive discussions with the union and that the provisions of the agreement remain in effect.
Negotiations are “a normal part of the negotiation process,” spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said in an email.
“We are committed to reaching a fair, negotiated agreement with our pilot group.”
At the end of May, the union invoked a clause to end its ten-year collective agreement a year early and begin negotiations for a new one. Two weeks later, he delivered a negotiation notice to company management, the first step in reaching a new agreement.
The union’s move came after 1,800 pilots from WestJet and budget subsidiary Swoop ratified a new agreement that puts them on a level pay scale, giving flight crews a 24 percent pay increase over four years and resulting at the closing of Swoop at the end of October.
Experts say the deal sets a new standard in Canadian aviation that will bring pilots closer to U.S. pay levels and increase costs for airlines still recovering from hundreds of millions of dollars in losses during the pandemic.
The talks with Air Canada also come as airlines face intense domestic and cross-border competition from ultra-low-cost carriers such as Flair Airlines and Lynx Air and as labor shortages continue to plague the sector.