Porter Airlines pilots attempt to unionize

Union to be automatically certified if 50% sign union cards
By Claire Sibonney
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 02/23/2012

(Reuters) — Pilots at Porter Airlines Inc. are attempting to form a union at the closely held short-haul carrier, an organizing drive that formally began in early January 2012, a Porter pilot familiar with the situation said on Thursday.

A six-member interim executive for the Porter Airlines Pilots Association, or PAPA, has sent an email, obtained by Reuters, to scores of the airline's 250 or so pilots, urging them to sign membership cards.

The Canadian Industrial Relations Board would automatically certify the union if 50 per cent of the pilots plus one sign cards. If the number falls short that but reaches at least 35 per cent, a membership ballot would take place.

If the organizing drive is successful, certification could come as early as July, the source said.

Porter chief executive Robert Deluce was not immediately available for comment.

Porter competes directly with Air Canada, which has a history of disputes with its unionized workforce. To a lesser extent, the smaller carrier competes with Canada's second biggest carrier, WestJet, whose workforce is non-union. WestJet recently announced plans to start a regional short-haul carrier similar to Porter.

Upstart Porter, which began operating in 2006, is best known for its flights to and from Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, located on an island in Lake Ontario just off Toronto's financial center.

In addition to Toronto, Canada's largest city, it operates flights to other cities and towns in Eastern Canada as well as to major U.S. destinations, including New York, Boston and Chicago.

A union application was granted to Porter's customer service agents in Ottawa last year, the board said.

The Porter source also told Reuters there was an unsuccessful effort to unionize the airline's flight attendants several months ago.

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