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Pilots union launches formal complaints against Air Canada, Jazz

Air Line Pilots Association calls deal with PAL out of bounds based on collective bargaining
Chorus Aviation Inc. says pilots at its subsidiary Jazz Aviation have ratified changes to its collective agreement, even as the union filed an unfair labour practice complaint against Jazz. The Jazz logo is shown in this undated photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jazz

The union representing pilots at Jazz Aviation claims that their employer and Air Canada have breached the Canada Labour Code, even as it ratified changes to their collective agreement.

On Monday, the Air Line Pilots Association filed a complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board arguing that both airlines violated the exclusivity deal between the two and effectively narrowed the pipeline of pilots from one carrier to the other.

Jazz, a subsidiary of Chorus Aviation Inc., provides regional service for the country’s biggest airline under the Air Canada Express brand.

In May, Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau announced a “bridging arrangement” with St. John’s, N.L.-based company PAL Airlines to boost the number of regional flights in Eastern Canada.

Tim Perry, president of the Air Line Pilots Association’s Canadian segment, said that the deal was out of bounds, due to the contract between Jazz and Air Canada.

“The arrangement was that it was exclusivity. So when flying was assigned or when deals were struck with PAL, we’re basically saying that that was done in contravention of previous agreements,” he said in a telephone interview from Winnipeg.

Rather than boost compensation and benefits to pilots — and thus attract and retain more in order to expand flight capacity at Jazz — management took another route, he said. On top of partnering with PAL, that path also saw Air Canada’s “micromanaging what Jazz and Chorus are able to work out in bargaining” and setting an effective cap on Jazz’s spending, Perry claimed.

Air Canada and Jazz also encroached on pilots’ labour rights by “refusing to comply with contractual pilot ‘flow’ agreements,” which see a certain number of pilots trickle from Jazz to Air Canada each year, according to a union statement.

Air Canada said it is reviewing the union’s filing, noting the airline has a long-standing relationship with Jazz.

“This relationship has been instrumental in our ability to serve communities throughout Canada. As this matter is in front of the board, we will not comment further on the complaint’s merit,” spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said in an email.

“With respect to PAL, it is in the context of Jazz’s pilot availability challenges and our desire to continue serving certain communities that some interim lift was acquired through PAL.”

Chorus said it does yet have the full details of the complaint, and does “not comment on matters before the labour board or any court or tribunal.”

“Jazz has a strong history of finding solutions and collaborating effectively with its unions. We look forward to working with ALPA to better understand and resolve their concerns,” spokeswoman Lauren Dunn said in an email.

The Jazz pilots launched the unfair labour practice complaint the same day — Monday — that they ratified an amended collective agreement with their Chorus.

Jazz president Randolph deGooyer said the tweaked deal recognizes the upward shift in pilot wages and expands the airline’s recruitment and training options.

“Through this modified agreement, we have shown a shared commitment to addressing industry challenges collaboratively,” deGooyer said in a release.

“These changes will further position Jazz as the leading regional operator in Canada,” added Chorus president Colin Copp.