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Sask. travellers can breathe easy after WestJet averts mechanics strike

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Travellers flying with WestJet in Saskatchewan faced some uncertainty after the airline proactively cancelled flights across the country before reinstating many of them.

The canceled flights were due to ongoing bargaining efforts between the company and the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) – the union that represents aircraft maintenance engineers and tech operators across North America.

Around 40 flights network-wide were affected – impacting around 6,500 passengers.

No substantial impacts were felt in Regina with the only flight cancellation being a departing flight to Toronto set for Thursday morning.

On June 17, a 72-hour strike notice was sent out earlier by AMFA after WestJet refused to engage in further bargaining and requested binding arbitration.

The notice came after a tentative agreement reached in May was rejected by 97.5 per cent of union membership.

Wednesday evening saw both AMFA and West Jet release statements – explaining that the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) declined the airline’s request for an injunction to prevent AMFA from striking and that further bargaining efforts were needed.

Both sides jointly agreed to return to the bargaining table and continue to work towards an agreement.

James Bogusz, the president and CEO of the Regina Airport Authority told CTV News that being in the loop is key when faced with flight disruptions as a result of bargaining.

"WestJet was very clear in their news to us that there may be further disruptions to the system depending on what labour action may be taken as a result of these issues,” he said, prior to the announcement of job action being suspended.

“These things can change in real time. Regardless of what they may be, it's very important that passengers who are flying with WestJet keep an eye on their flight status."

In its update, WestJet encouraged fliers to keep an eye on flight updates and sign up for text and email alerts through the airline.

AMFA, which represents around 670 aircraft maintenance engineers and skilled trade groups with WestJet, had cited wages, outsourcing, scheduling and layoff protection as standout issues during negotiations.

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