The failure of the AEA to stand up for Onex WestJet workers as the company continues to contract out your work is gaining new attention and direct action by the workers involved.

As a result of a complaint to federal Labour Minister Filomina Tassi filed by law firm AQR Law - representing a group of Guest Service Ambassadors at WestJet in Vancouver - the ministry is now investigating the workings of the Joint Planning Committee (JPC) set up to mitigate layoffs.

The complaint charges that the Airport Employee Association failed to live up to even the most basic tenets of the Canada Labour Code (CLC) at the JPC. The CLC requires that a JPC be set up with representatives of both the company and staff. The company, however, simply appointed AEA reps to the JPC and the AEA, for some reason, went along with it.

The complaint says Onex WestJet simply “went through the motions” of the process and never seriously considered alternatives to layoffs and contracting out.

Unifor agrees, and is calling on Minister Tassi to lift the Tuesday deadline for GSAs to make their final layoff decision to give her staff time to properly review the 62-page complaint.

Unifor has been following the progress of­ the complaint. Since we are not yet the legal representative for frontline airport workers at WestJet, however, we have no legal right to participate in the lawsuit, and it is operating independently.

The central question in the suit is, did the AEA violate the Canada Labour Code rules for the Joint Planning Committee?

From everything we know, it seems like the AEA has been working with WestJet Onex to undervalue the true intent of the JPC as per the Canada Labour Code when dealing with group termination of employment:

  • Section 215 (2) Where no redundant employees are represented by a trade union, the employees are entitled to appoint all the members of a joint planning committee who are to be their representatives.
  • Section 215(4) Each person appointed as a member of a joint planning committee pursuant to subsection (2) or paragraph (3)(b) shall be elected by the redundant employees entitled to appoint the member.

WestJet has appointed AEA representatives without workers having the chance to elect their representatives. What’s more, the co-chair of the employee group is not even being affected by the job loss.
It is no surprise that the AEA is touting victory, while jobs are outsourced and workers offered little more than the statutory minimum severance as per the CLC.

Unifor has called on the AEA to use the power of the JPC to mitigate job loss and outsourcing but instead of negotiation on behalf of workers, they sling mud at Unifor with bogus statements suggesting that jobs cannot be saved.

The intent of the JPC is to mitigate job loss, as the CLC clearly spells out:

  • Section 221 (1) It is the object of a joint planning committee to develop an adjustment program to:
    • (a) eliminate the necessity for the termination of employment; or
    • (b) minimize the impact of the termination of employment on the redundant employees and to assist those employees in obtaining other employment.
  • Furthermore, if the Joint Planning Committee fails to negotiate a fair deal, workers have the ability to request an arbitrator to help to negotiate a deal.
  • If agreement can’t be reached, an arbitrator can be called in to help:
    • 224 (1) The Minister may, on application under subsection 223(1), appoint an arbitrator to assist the joint planning committee in the development of an adjustment program and to resolve any matters in dispute respecting the adjustment program.

WestJetters continue to lose confidence in the AEA. Just this week, another group of WestJetters from the Technical Administrative Professional Support (TAPS) work group have taken immediate action against WestJet by hiring outside legal representation to fight for their rights

Rather than negotiate fair and reasonable agreements with workers we are receiving word that WestJet has retained David De Groot from Duckworth Palmer to challenge workers and their rights.

Meanwhile, Brad Cherrington and the AEA is trying to keep this information from you and dissuade you from joining Unifor the largest private sector union in Canada with resources to represent you properly.

Not only is in increasingly clear that the AEA is not up to the job of representing your interests, but it is actively working against them by going along with the dictates of a company that would rather spend money on lawyers than address your rights under the law.

With a union, you have a voice in the workplace and elected representatives dedicated to working on your behalf. Unifor has an entire legal department that takes on any legal issues on your behalf – at no extra cost.

Things are moving fast at Onex WestJet. Sign a union card now and gain a voice in your workplace. To learn more about signing a card and helping your coworkers do the same, please reach out to one of your organizers.

Billy O'Neill, Unifor
[email protected] | 416-605-1443

Ada Zampini, Unifor
[email protected] | 514-701-6227

Bruce Fafard, Unifor
[email protected] | 587-341-0945

British Columbia
Simon Lau, Unifor
[email protected] | 778-928-9630

Patrick Murray, Unifor
[email protected] | 506-850-7996



Unifor is a Canadian union with a modern, inclusive approach to serving members and improving our workplaces and communities. // Unifor est un syndicat canadien qui a une approche moderne et inclusive pour servir ses membres et améliorer nos lieux de trav