Union says Cargojet retaliated against pilots for support

A Cargojet jet, white with blue tail, comes in for a landing with wheels extended.

The new union representing pilots at Cargojet on Wednesday filed an unfair labor practice complaint with Canadian authorities alleging that company management violated the law by firing 23 pilots who were in their probationary period while continuing to hire additional cockpit crews.

The terminations came five days after Cargojet (TSX: CJT) pilots voted to join the Air Line Pilots Association, based in Herndon, Virginia, and leave Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union.

ALPA’s complaint with the Canada Industrial Relations Board asserts that the 23 pilots were let go because they were directly involved in ALPA’s organizing efforts. Many of them were days away from leaving probation and obtaining permanent status. Many had previously been laid off by Air Canada as a result of lost business because of COVID-19 and were told they are not eligible to be rehired with Cargojet.

The union asked the CIRB to order the company to stop violating the law, including any form of discipline for pilots who have demonstrated support for ALPA as the bargaining agent. It also asked that all 23 pilots be reinstated with full compensation. 

Cargojet could not be reached before publication.

In May, Unifor said ALPA tried to steal members when it intervened in a dispute with Cargojet over the airline’s alleged effort to weaken Canadian hours-of-service rules that went into effect months earlier. The ALPA involvement occurred as Unifor was engaged in bargaining on a new contract. ALPA insinuated that Unifor wasn’t doing enough to prevent unsafe work conditions.

ALPA said at the time that Cargojet was seeking exemptions from the rules and engaging in intimidation to influence pilots to support the request.

Cargojet operates a domestic overnight network for Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), DHL (DXE: DPW) and Purolator, with its airplanes also carrying interline traffic from international airlines. It also offers aircraft leasing and international charter service. It has more than two dozen widebody aircraft in its fleet.

“We are astounded by Cargojet’s decision to lay off pilots just prior to the expiration of the probation provisions, while continuing to hire pilots,” said Rob Giguere, chief of the Air Canada Pilots Association. “The most successful airlines over the long-term – from both the safety and profitability perspective – are those who cultivate a relationship of mutual respect – and not fear – with their professional pilots. We call on Cargojet management to work on that basis with its pilot group.”

The ALPA takeover as the bargaining agent for Cargojet’s 130 pilots comes weeks after the company’s minority investment in 21 Air LLC, a Greensboro, North Carolina, company that operates five Boeing 767 cargo jets. 21 Air provides charter, contract flying and crews to major air cargo consolidators, freight forwarders and express carriers, including Cargojet. The move gives Cargojet greater access to the U.S. market.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.


Disgruntled pilots blast 5-year contract with Atlas Air

US, Canadian pilots unions clash over Cargojet and fatigue rules

Canada’s Cargojet explores US investment