Sunwing says there's lots of time for talks to avoid strike by flight attendants

Sunwing’s president says there’s lots of time for the airline to reach a first collective agreement with its 900 flight attendants and avoid a strike.

“There’s a long way to go and I’m confident that we’ll get something done,” Mark Williams said in an interview Friday.

He said there has only been two days of talks since the company filed for conciliation because it was unhappy with the way negotiations were progressing.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, who represents the flight attendants said conciliated talks set to resume Feb. 11 now face a setback because of the departure of the company’s chief negotiator.

Mark Brancelj, president of Local 4055, said the union is concerned that the sudden departure of the interim director of human resources will result in deadlocked negotiations.

But Williams said the departure of the contract employee has nothing to do with negotiations and called the union’s suggestion a “posturing tactic” to create an issue where there isn’t one.

Although flight attendants are seeking their first contract, Sunwing has experienced negotiators who have concluded contracts with other employees, he added.

Williams declined to disclose the issues separating the two sides, saying they’ve both agreed to not to discuss them publicly.

The two sides met over two days last month and are scheduled for five additional sessions.

Either side could force a labour disruption as early as March 23, following a 21-day cooling-off period if talks collapse.

The flight attendants have been without an agreement since being accredited last March.

Sunwing Airlines operates from bases in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City.

It is a subsidiary of Sunwing Travel Group and a sister company to Sunwing Vacations, Signature Vacations and SellOffVacations.