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Sunwing strike could disrupt weekly flights from region to Punta Cana

Sunwing Airlines, which flies out of the Region of Waterloo International Airport, faces strike action from its pilots.

CAW Local 7378, a branch of the Canadian Auto Workers Union, represents approximately 160 of the airline’s pilots. The local has been bargaining since August and has filed for conciliation and the establishment of a strike deadline after talks with the airline came to a recent halt.

The general manager of the Breslau airport, Chris Wood, said he’s heard little of the bargaining process from the company but services in the region will not be drastically affected if a strike should take place.

“I haven’t been contacted by Sunwing about their contingency plans or anything, so I really don’t know what I could say about it. I guess if Sunwing stopped flying because of it then it would affect one flight a week here, really that’s all.”

The airline provides Tuesday service to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic during the winter season from Dec. 26, 2012 to Apr. 16, 2013.

CAW National president Ken Lewenza says the union action is a result of Sunwing’s “unwillingness” to address the concerns of the pilot group.

“It’s truly a shame that such a profitable company would choose to ignore reasonable requests of its highly skilled flight crews,” he added.

“The company refuses to move on issues of inefficient scheduling, crew fatigue, unproductive work hours and compensation. We understand the need for our company to maintain its current pay structure and have only asked for a minimal wage increase,” said CAW Local 7378 president Captain Dave Matkovich in a release.

The airline’s pilot contracts expired on November 30. According to the union’s website, some of the major concerns brought forward by pilots involve scheduling stability, greater productivity while away from home, and fatigue experienced due to the length of time on duty. The union is now waiting for the appointment of a conciliation officer by the Ministry of Labour.

Wood said larger airports would feel the impact of a strike more than the local airport, as Sunwing provides a popular but limited seasonal service in the region. This year the airline is in service until April – about 14 weeks.

The airline is a part of Sunwing Travel Group, which is Canada’s largest leisure company, having experienced much growth in the past couple of years according to the union’s website. Earlier in 2012 Sunwing Travel Group announced that it was listed in the Annual PROFIT 200 Ranking of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies by PROFIT Magazine.

Sunwing Airlines representatives did not return calls before press time.

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