Onex WestJet has announced an agreement to purchase Sunwing Airlines and Sunwing Travel Group. It makes perfect sense for private equity funds to invest in the airline industry during the pandemic, expecting a rebound in travel and increased profits once travel picks up and we exit the pandemic.

Today's announcement is the most recent news that brings uncertainty to airline workers as they figure out what this purchase means to them and their jobs. Sunwing Customer Service work is currently done by third-party ground handling companies across the country, including some Unifor members. Unifor also represents the pilots of Sunwing.

A year ago, in a Globe and Mail article, there was some talk about Sunwing receiving an offer from an unnamed buyer. Sunwing is a conglomerate: Along with Sunwing Airlines, it operates 45 resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean, tour providers, a luxury charter jet service, and other vacation and hotel brands. The group is 51% owned by the family of Mr. Colin Hunter and employs about 3,000 people in Canada. Germany-based tourism and airline company TUI Group owns 49%.

Over the last several years, a lot has happened at Onex WestJet. At the beginning of the pandemic, Onex WestJet announced outsourcing work to third-party ground handling companies that took over customer service work at 34 tier two and tier three airports across the network. The rush to outsource good airline jobs continues with the recent announcement of some Contact Centre work outsourced to an international airline contact centre, WNS.

Remaining airports workers and Contact Centre employees need a union in the face of aggressive change at Onex WestJet. It continues to pursue cost-saving measures as the airline sector faces unprecedented challenges in Canada.

All these changes in the airline sector are reasons workers need a voice in the company and their industry. Onex WestJet has not previously put workers' priorities at the forefront, and there is no reason to think this time will be any different.

With all of the airline industry changes taking place, it is leading to more and more WestJetters signing Unifor membership cards.

To sign a union card

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