Air Canada’s AC-T pilots will demonstrate at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Friday, calling for better pay and working conditions on the same day their collective agreement expires.
The pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), have been in talks with Air Canada since June.
The union says pilots will stage the “informational picket” at Pearson’s Terminal One, supported by pilots from other airlines, to amplify their demands for a contract that replaces the one reached nine years ago. That deal provided yearly raises of about 2 per cent.
The union, which represents more than 5,000 pilots at Air Canada, has vowed to narrow the pay gap with flight crews in the United States. Canadian pilots are taking jobs at U.S. carriers as a pandemic-related labour shortage has driven up wages there.
Air Canada has slashed its schedule during the pilot shortage, mostly in Western Canada. For November, the carrier has reduced the number of seats departing Calgary by 27 per cent, compared with the same month a year ago. Regina has been cut by 43 per cent and Fort McMurray, Alta., by 27 per cent, according to Cirium, an aviation data company.
“As we watch Air Canada cut routes due to an industrywide shortage of pilots, we encourage them to close the growing wage gap between Canada and the United States,” said Charlene Hudy, chair of the Air Canada pilots’ union. “Air Canada has an opportunity to recognize the current market trends in the aviation sector and acknowledge the value and expertise our pilots bring to our company and passengers every day.”
Peter Fitzpatrick, an Air Canada spokesperson, said Friday’s picket is a normal part of the bargaining process. The Montreal-based airline is holding productive talks with union negotiators, he said. “Our contract’s provisions remain in effect, and we continue to operate our airline as usual.”
Neither side is in a strike or lockout position as of Saturday, nor will they be unless a handful of conditions are met over several weeks.
WestJet pilots, also represented by ALPA, in June ratified a contract that provides pay raises of 24 per cent over four years.
Air Canada’s pilots recently voted to join ALPA, abandoning their namesake union and ending their 10-year agreement one year early.