20240630 picket line westjet
People walk with their luggage as striking aircraft maintenance engineers and technical staff represented by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association union stand in a picket line. Image Credit: Reuters

A mechanics strike that began on Friday evening has forced WestJet Airlines Ltd. to cancel 407 flights, disrupting travel for thousands over the Canada Day holiday weekend.

Canada's second-largest air carrier canceled more than 80 flights from Sunday through Tuesday, on top of nearly 300 flights on Saturday. It plans to reduce its operating fleet to about 30 aircraft by Sunday evening, according to a company statement.

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The federal government stepped in Thursday to prevent a strike by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, with Labor Minister Seamus O'Regan directing the Canada Industrial Relations Board to impose final binding arbitration to resolve issues between WestJet and the union over labor talks. WestJet is controlled by Toronto-based private equity firm Onex Corp.

Despite the effort, the mechanics started striking Friday at 7:30 p.m. Toronto time, with the union citing a June 28 decision by the industrial relations board for permitting the labor action. O'Regan said Saturday in a social media post on X that he urged the parties to resolve their differences.