Good schedules based on three simple principles

Unifor leads the way in ensuring a fair scheduling system is in place for our members in air transportation. It has been one of the priorities for WestJetters in Calgary and Vancouver who proposed a scheduling committee at the bargaining table.

Shortly thereafter, WestJet and the Airports Employee Association (AEA) came together to announce a new scheduling committee for workers in YYZ and YEG. This is a great first step, but let’s be honest, even if workers or the AEA object to WestJet demanding flexibility there is no real mechanism to ensure fairness to fix the schedule and WestJet can do what they want. This is likely a pre-emptive approach to entice workers at these bases from joining the union and gaining a real voice

In our busy lives, work-life balance is important. We all work hard to get to and from work in time to prepare meals, get our children to lessons or games, maybe spend a little time with our partners and friends, and even just relax a little and even take a trip on dates that they were not able to bid vacation and recharge before going back to work. We know airline schedules are challenging because of the 24/7 nature of flights but flexibility permits workers to rearrange their schedules to fit their lives.

Doing all that relies in no small part on how your employer sets your work schedule. In Unifor workplaces, we follow three basic principles when we negotiate collective agreement language on schedules.

  • Predictability
  • Flexibility
  • Fairness

With predictability, you can plan ahead. With flexibility, you can easily swap schedules when need be. With fairness, you can rest assured that favouritism doesn’t decide who gets the best shifts. For Unifor members at Air Canada and Jazz, this means:

  • Schedules as long as six months in advance
  • A minimum of two consecutive days off a week
  • The right to trade shifts easily, including partial shifts
  • The right to work several days in a row, as a way to front-load several days or weeks off in a row and do not all have to be worked in return (shift trades)
  • Rules on scheduling enshrined in the collective agreement to ensure fairness over favouritism
  • A union committee participating in the scheduling process
  • A grievance procedure when disputes arise

As WestJetters know better than anyone, this is not how things work at WestJet. In fact, schedules rarely seem to take life outside the airport into consideration. Changing schedules is next to impossible and subject to favouritism.

WestJet claims that its outdated top-down approach to scheduling is needed to meet operational needs, but the scheduling rules in place at Air Canada and Jazz - thanks to their Unifor contracts - show that treating workers fairly is a good business model. WestJet’s approach to scheduling is inadequate often leaving the operation short and requiring workers to stay after the end of their scheduled shift.

The fact is, that employee satisfaction increases with good scheduling. As frontline workers for WestJet and the face of the company in airports, it is simply good business for WestJet to take proper care and attention when it schedules shifts.

With a Unifor collective agreement, workers can set out a fair and reasonable process for setting work schedules. In the end, that’s good for the worker, and for WestJet.

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If you have any questions, please contact your local organizer.

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