VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Laid-off WestJet customer service staff in Vancouver say that the company has contracted out their jobs instead of recalling them, despite receiving federal assistance funding, and now an employee representative is calling the severance package offered a slap in the face.
WestJet has also asked the federal government for bailout money, according to Allevato Quail and Roy Law, a Vancouver labour and employment law firm representing the affected staff.
After being denied an exemption to the Canada Labour Code requirements by Labour Minister Filomina Tassi, WestJet engaged in a sham joint planning process with the affected employees, only to offer barely more than the minimum required under the federal labour code, Rachel Roy, a partner at AQR Law, says in a release.
“WestJet asked to be excluded from the minimum requirements of the law for mass layoffs.”
The Ministry of Labour has initiated an investigation into the matter as a result of multiple complaints, she adds.
‘Cease and desist’
“We are calling on Minister Tassi to order WestJet to immediately cease and desist.”
Jean-Paul Zambo, who used to work in the company’s guest services department at Vancouver International Airport, tells NEWS 1130 the workers have been given until Tuesday to accept the severance package.
“When COVID hit we were asked to take a voluntary leave of absences, we were asked to retire if we wanted to — early retirement — they came up with packages,” he explains.
“We all did it to try and help the company, to save the company. A month or two later, we found out that they decided to outsource all our jobs and terminate us,” Zambo says.
“We received emails.”
He says everyone will be laid off as of Oct. 20.
“Our situation currently is over 3,300 and that doesn’t include the corporate layoffs on top of that.”
‘Negotiation process was a sham’
Zambo adds because guest services employees — who help people who need assistance getting on and off planes, and from one gate to another — are not part of a union, WestJet appointed a representative to negotiate severance amounts. He calls the process a sham.
“WestJet negotiated with themselves to give us our severance.”
He says others laid off feel they would have been able to negotiate a better settlement had they been properly consulted.
“These are the people that built the company, they gave their blood sweat and tears, they did everything for the company to thrive and make it Canada’s darling airline,” he insists. “To be treated in such a way is not right.”
Zambo points out the workers want an extension on severance negotiations. “They never gave us a chance to make it work.”
Morgan Bell, with WestJet, said the company announced the organizational changes in late June.