Unifor’s Submission to Transport Canada’s Public Interest Review of the Proposed Acquistion of Sunwing by WestJet

Any public interest review must include the impact of a merger or acquisition on both the quantity and quality of jobs. Historically, Competition Bureau investigations and Transport Canada Public Interest reviews have not contemplated the effects of proposed mergers or acquisitions on jobs despite the fact that the Competition Act technically leaves room to contemplate these effects1 and that creating and maintaining high quality employment opportunities in the Country’s labour market is directly in the public interest.

Unifor is concerned that, despite the promises made to create jobs, this acquisition will actually lead to a decrease in the quality of employment sustained by the new entity and that the quantity of employment will actually decline, not increase.
As a result, Unifor recommends government strongly consider the following points and develop obligations WestJet is required to meet in order to mitigate the worst effects of mergers and acquisitions on workers. The acquisition should be blocked if these caveats cannot be mitigated:

  1. Job creation: The Transport Canada consultation document identifies Crew Optimization as one of the potential impacts of the proposed acquisition. Crew Optimization is generally code for reducing the number of workers in the organization and/or contracting out. Fewer employed people or people employed in lower quality jobs is not an efficient outcome for the economy. It is imperative Transport Canada and the Competition Bureau investigate this outcome thoroughly before approving any acquisition.
  2. Passenger experience: Passenger experience impacts could be positive or negative; the outcome depends largely on whether WestJet and ONEX continue down a path of contracting out, depressing working conditions and providing sub-optimal training in exchange for profit. Instead, the new entity should pivot to a strategy that invests in workers across the company in order to improve job quality and customer experience. If the organization does not pivot, even more travellers will be subject to poor customer service.
  3. Collective Bargaining: Any integration of the two companies must include respect and acceptance of existing collective agreements. Current workers for each company have fought hard for the collective agreements they have. One unit, WestJet’s customer service representatives are in bargaining right now for their first collective agreement. Using the moment of this acquisition as an opportunity to negate existing collective agreements or fire existing employees, will reduce employment quality in the company and in the sector.