CALGARY - WestJet pilots have issued a 72-hour strike notice to the company and the government, according to the union that represents them, and they warn the airline could be shut down right before the May long weekend.

The Air Line Pilots Association says in a news release that pilots plan to begin lawful job action early Friday morning, which the release says “could include grounding all aircraft and effectively shutting down operations.”

Bernard Lewall, who heads the union's WestJet contingent, said last week that the workers' issues revolve around job protection, pay and scheduling, with some 340 pilots leaving the carrier over the past year and a half -- mostly to other airlines.

The union represents some 1,600 flight crew at WestJet and subsidiary Swoop, and had warned Friday that a walkout could come as early as this week as talks dragged on.

In a statement last week, the Calgary-based airline said its pilots are among the best paid in Canada, but that a contract on par with those recently secured by some U.S. pilot groups would be financially unworkable and put the company's future at risk.

The union says in its news release it could have filed the strike notice over the weekend, but in a bid to keep the airline operating, it agreed to extend negotiations.

“Flight disruptions are never an ideal outcome, especially given the tremendous support our guests have shown us, and we want to continue being a major contributor to our company's success by helping WestJet realize its growth strategy,” Lewall said in the news release, issued late Monday.

“However, WestJet pilots will withdraw our services to secure a contract that will fix many of the airline's labour problems and make it a career destination for pilots once again.”

The union noted that while progress was made on most non-cost items, both sides have been unable to reach an agreement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 15, 2023.