WestJet CEO ramps up anti-union ef­fort as more join push to or­ga­nize work­ers

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - IAN BICKIS

CAL­GARY — The head of WestJet has stepped up his fight against the grow­ing push to union­ize the air­line’s staff, telling them to re­sist or­ga­nized labour’s pitch be­cause it will chomp into their pay­cheques.

In an email sent last week to the com­pany’s 12,000 em­ploy­ees, CEO Gregg Saret­sky re­vealed that five unions are now try­ing to cer­tify sev­eral groups of WestJet work­ers after its pi­lots agreed in May to join the Air Line Pi­lots As­so­ci­a­tion.

“Unions are op­por­tunis­ti­cally try­ing to grow their busi­nesses by tar­get­ing WestJet­ters,” Saret­sky said in the email ob­tained by The Cana­dian Press.

“Be­cause let’s be clear — unions are a busi­ness. They in­crease their rev­enue by re­cruit­ing new mem­bers, and WestJet rep­re­sents an op­por­tu­nity to sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease their prof­its.”

A spokesper­son for WestJet con­firmed the au­then­tic­ity of the email, adding that it’s part of an ef­fort to en­sure staff are “armed with the facts” about union­iza­tion.

Saret­sky took spe­cific aim at union dues, say­ing WestJet em­ploy­ees stand to pay $16.6 mil­lion a year if the unions suc­ceed.

“Money that goes to­ward union bu­reau­cracy and, in part, to or­ga­niz­ing ef­forts at other com­pa­nies!” he said.

“They get nearly $17 mil­lion of your money, or $425 mil­lion of your money over a 25-year ca­reer. What do you get? That’s the ques­tion we urge you to ask your­selves. Isn’t it bet­ter to get a cheque than a bill?”

The pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian Union of Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees (CUPE), which is try­ing to union­ize WestJet flight at­ten­dants, said Saret­sky’s email re­flects he is “way out of whack” when it comes to un­der­stand­ing unions.

“He’s try­ing to in­tim­i­date work­ers,” said Mark Han­cock.

“It’s some­thing sim­i­lar to what we’ve seen out of com­pa­nies like Wal­mart, and some of those other big box com­pa­nies that hate unions, and will say any­thing to try and scare off work­ers from join­ing a union.”

He said CUPE only cam­paigns at com­pa­nies after work­ers ap­proach them, and the ben­e­fits it has brought to the 11,500 flight at­ten­dants it al­ready rep­re­sents is a clear re­but­tal to Saret­sky’s po­si­tion.

Since it was founded in 1996, WestJet has prided it­self on a unique re­la­tion­ship with its em­ploy­ees that al­lows them to par­take in profit shar­ing and other ben­e­fits.

The union­iza­tion drive in­cludes ap­peals from Uni­for, the United Steel­work­ers, the In­ter­na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ma­chin­ists and Aero­space Work­ers and the WestJet Pro­fes­sional Flight At­ten­dants As­so­ci­a­tion.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

WestJet CEO Gregg Saret­sky sent an email to the em­ploy­ees last week to dis­suade them from join­ing a union.

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