A dispute over crew rest rules has turned into an international spat between pilot unions. Last week Air Line Pilots Association President Joe DePete took the unusual step of publicly criticizing Unifor, the union that represents pilots at several Canadian airlines including Cargojet. The cargo airline is embroiled in a dispute with the Canadian government over new crew rest regulations. Unifor held a vote among its 283 pilots on whether to support Cargojet’s bid to gain exemptions from the new regs. DePete slammed the vote, suggesting it was counter to union principles. “Any exemption, waiver or weakening of these regulations would undermine safety and be a slap in the face to those who fought so hard to have them enacted in the first place.”
As it turns out, the pilots overwhelmingly rejected jumping on that bandwagon but the outside interference from the U.S. union irked its Canadian brothers and sisters. “To have the president of ALPA preach from Virginia to our pilots on the bargaining committee about fatigue rules and safety is condescending, arrogant and disrespectful,” said Unifor President Jerry Dias.
Cargojet, which is based in Hamilton, Ontario, just outside Toronto, has said it will move half of its pilots to the U.S. if it doesn’t get the exemptions because U.S. cargo airlines have less restrictive regs. Dias said the missive from DePete amounts to raiding his members. “Captain Joe DePete knows full well that 130 Canadian pilots stand to lose their jobs, and he is standing by to take their dues if operations move to the U.S. where Congress has exempted cargo airline operators from some fatigue rules, giving them a competitive advantage over Canadian operators.” Cargojet has not commented on the dispute.