Unions, industry and labour relations

Swoop flight attendants gain union certification

A freshly-painted Swoop Boeing 737-800NG sits on the tarmac at Kelowna International Airport (photo: Swoop).

Flight attendants at Canadian low-cost carrier Swoop have gained certification for union representation. Some 170 cabin crew will now be represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“It is such a pleasure to welcome this last part of the WestJet organization into CUPE,” said Mark Hancock, President of CUPE National in a statement.  “We are honoured that Flight Attendants put their trust in us and we will work hard to keep that trust.”

The Swoop employees join their colleagues at parent company Westjet, who staged their own successful unionization drive in April. CUPE is entering negotiations for a first with the airline, and the certification could mean a single contract for the entire company, as is the case for Westjet pilots.

It also risks raising costs, particularly in an ultra low-cost environment, where labour eats up a significant portion of the budget, and where margins are thin.

“Swoop respects the individual rights of our employees to choose their representation,” said Steven Greenway, President of Swoop. “We will work together with CUPE to continue building a successful ultra-lost-cost airline.”

Westjet has successfully reached deals with several unions in recent months, including pilots, aircraft maintenance personnel, and flight dispatchers, leaving flight attendants as one of the few significant groups without a deal.

The certification drive at Swoop caps off a major labour transition for the entire Westjet organization, which once prided itself on its non-union environment, but whose corporate culture has evolved as the airline’s operations have grown more global and complex.

CUPE now represents some 15,000 flight attendants at several airlines across the country, including 4,000 at Westjet and its subsidiaries.