WestJet Airlines acts quick to quash union talk

CALGARY: WestJet Airlines was quick to say that its employees do not need union representation, following media reports that the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) were launching a union drive at the country's second-largest airline.

CALGARY: WestJet Airlines was quick to say that its employees do not need union representation, following media reports that the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) were launching a union drive at the country's second-largest airline.

Officials with the CAW said they had received a number of calls from WestJet employees and were in talks to possibly launch a union drive. WestJet Airlines quickly issued a press release saying its employees were not interested.

A statement from Captain Don Hougan, chairman of Pro-Active Communications Team (PACT), a non-union group that represents 6,300 WestJet employees, read: “Our employees have demonstrated that there is no need or desire for union representation. The great success of this airline comes through our engaged and committed workforce.”

And a statement from Ferio Pugliese, WestJet's EVP of people, said “WestJet empowers our people to think and act like owners who have a stake in the success of the company. Currently, more than 80 percent of WestJetters own shares, and in the airline's 12-year history, WestJetters have earned over $155 million in profit share.” WestJet declined to comment further for this story.

Erin McConnell, president of Wilcox Group in Vancouver, said that, in such cases, it is smart to get your message out as quickly as possible. Although regulations vary by province, “once there is a filing for [union] certification, the employer becomes very restricted in what they can say, not say, and how they can say it,” McConnell said, whose agency has worked on such cases. “There is a very small window of communication, so the best practice is that if you're in an industry that is heavily unionized, you should have a candid way of communicating with your employees that reinforces the direct employer-employee relationship is the best one.”

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