Winter Weather XROP Update December 20, 2022

On behalf of the Executive Board, we want to send our heartfelt thank you to everyone who is working through this very difficult and mentally draining time. We have talked to many of you, near the brink of exhaustion, about the conditions you are facing at the airport. 

We have been in touch with the Executive Leadership Team at WestJet about the current state of the operation and what we can expect over the next few days. A communication was released to our employees and the public not long ago. As of 1200 PST today, over 15000 guests are stranded in our airports, network wide. YEG and YYC are facing wind chill temperatures up to -46 degrees Celsius today. Our operations and airports are at capacity, with days of work ahead of us to get guests to their final destinations. 

During the call with the ELT today, Karen expressed the Union’s frustrations and concerns regarding the long lineups, upset guests, and exhausted employees. She held the Company accountable for its lack of leadership and planning in staffing and overstretched flight schedules. Karen spoke to Deidrick about the changes we attempted to make during bargaining this time last year and how badly staffed our operations were.  Yet here we are again.  Nothing has changed.  Deidrick offered an invitation to meet in person in the New Year to discuss the changes that need to be made. The question was asked at the meeting, “but what about now?”  What is the company doing to incentivize employees to continue to show up day after day after being abused and exhausted?  We have another call tomorrow for a company update and hope to bring you a better outlook.  

Deidrick also advised those Union leaders on the call that if staff cannot get home due to long shifts, exhaustion, or no available transportation, to book a hotel and they will be reimbursed.  Karen has also been in touch with Vancouver and Calgary leadership to convey this message to them.

Lastly, the Executive Leadership Team approached the Unifor Executive Board last week, asking if it would be okay for them to “help out” during the peak holiday season.  We declined their assistance to hold them accountable to the language we agreed upon in the Collective Agreement, which reads:

The Company will not permit any person not covered under this Agreement to perform any tasks and/or duties covered under this Agreement, […].

We recognize that this is a tradition that has occurred mostly in the Calgary airport and some staff was upset that we declined the ELT’s offer. We know the operation is struggling, but in light of that, we can’t forget that change needs to come.  We highlighted to the Company last year in bargaining, the challenges our front-line staff face, especially during these winter operations.  Real change needs to happen to ensure our front-line staff do not face this amount of stress come Reading week in February or Spring Break in March. Once the peak season is over, the Executive Board of Local 531 will be meeting with Deidrick to develop successful, employee-focused strategies and scheduling practices that support the operation as well as our people.  

As recent as yesterday, the ELT reached out again asking if they could come to the airports to assist with the operation. The Local Executive Team did come to an agreement late this morning to allow this work to occur due to the extreme weather and IROPS our bases are seeing.  It was never the Union’s intention to deny assistance from the ELT during times like this.  We need to work together to ensure our front-line staff are taken care of and our guests get to where they need to be during the Holiday Season.

Please take care of yourselves and each other and reach out to us for support.  Our new email addresses are below.

Karen Berry, President

[email protected]
(705) 828-7795

Mark Enns, Secretary-Treasurer

[email protected]

Breanne Laihow, YVR District Chair [email protected]

Sherwin Antonio, YYC District Chair [email protected]
(403) 660-7154

Jagreet Sandhu [email protected]
(403) 671-5555

Elaine Keras [email protected]

Kara Jahn, Communications Officer [email protected]
(778) 960-0933

For General Inquires or you are not sure who you should contact, please email us at [email protected]



In Solidarity, 

Karen, Mark, Breanne, Sherwin, Elaine, Kara, and Jagreet