The pilots for PAL Airlines have filed for federal conciliation services in their negotiations with PAL upper management, effectively setting a three month countdown until they are able to strike.
The decision to file for conciliatory services comes after nearly two years of negotiations with PAL Group of Companies executives, said the Air Line Pilots Association, the union representing the pilots, in a news release on Friday.
"We have reached a position where we don't really feel like this is moving forward given the present dynamic," said ALPA Canada president Tim Perry in an interview with CBC News. "We filed for conciliation with the federal government hoping that they would be able to assist us and the management to come to an agreement."
Perry said the pilots are looking for an "industry standard" collective agreement that includes provisions for career progression, compensation, scheduling, rest and more.
"Some of these things really should have been settled a long time ago but they remain outstanding," he said.
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service provides conflict resolution to trade unions and employers that fall under the jurisdiction of the Canada Labour Code.
After a union applies for conciliation services, the Minister of Labour has 15 days to appoint a conciliation officer, who then has 60 days to help the parties come to a resolution. At the end of the 60 days, the parties have a three week "cooling off period." At the end of that period, management can choose to lockout or the union can choose to strike.
For PAL pilots, the conciliation period will end at the beginning of January — while holiday travel is still in full swing.
Perry said people should keep the possibility of a disruption in mind if they're making plans to travel at that time. However, he said the pilots know that many rely on the airline, and the union is trying to avoid an interruption in service.
"Nobody wants a work disruption or a labour disruption or any disruption to service at all," he said.
Airline 'committed' to conciliation process
Perry said it's normal for a first collective agreement to take longer than subsequent agreements, but it should not have taken two years.
"We don't really feel that the management team has been taking it as seriously as we have," he said.
Perry said the pilots are "frustrated" by the two years of negotiations.
"It feels to us like they're stalling the process," he said.
PAL Airlines is a regional airline operating primarily in Eastern Canada, with headquarters in St. John's.
In a statement, Joseph Galimberti, PAL senior vice president of public affairs, said the airline is committed to "active participation" in the conciliation process in hopes of achieving a "timely" resolution.
"PAL Airlines is seeking an agreement that meets the needs of our employees while preserving the sustainability of our operations," said Galimberti. "PAL Airlines is proud of the efforts our team has made in maintaining service to our communities through the pandemic."