Former Aveos employees bring fight to Quebec City
Published Wednesday, March 21, 2012 6:18PM EDT
MONTREAL - Laid off employees from Aveos Fleet Performance were protesting in front of the National Assembly on Wednesday, a day after their former employer began to liquidate its assets, putting 2,600 employees out of work.
The workers were blaming Air Canada for the lost jobs and were asking for the provincial government to take on the airline. Air Canada spun off its technical services division in 2007, creating Aveos. The aircraft maintenance firm depended on Air Canada for up to 90 per cent of the work on its balance sheet.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers claims that Air Canada created Aveos to get around a law which required the airline to keep maintenance jobs in Canada. Over 1,800 of the lost jobs were in Montreal.
"A lot of people are feeling betrayed because we all thought that we were going to transition to Aveos and be a part of this company, which was supposed to be a viable and strong company," said Daniel Giardino, a 23 year veteran who lost his job on Tuesday.
"All of a sudden we turn around and we see that it was a fabrication by Air Canada to get rid of all their maintenance personnel and send the work elsewhere."
Other workers say that Air Canada executives are pulling in large salaries and bonuses, while workers are being laid off.
"I just see us peddling faster to stay in the same place and the imbalance is ridiculous," said Phil Hatchell, a laid off worker.
Premier Jean Charest says that the government supports the workers and will help them, union leaders met on Wednesday morning with Economic Development Minister Sam Hamad.
"We are going to do everything we can to see how we can get the company to operate and maintain its operations, and support the workers," said Charest. "This came very suddenly."
The Parti Quebecois presented a motion during Question Period on Wednesday asking the government to use legal means to get Air Canada to keep the jobs in Montreal. The government says it is exploring its legal options.
"It's important that we revise regulations around the privatization of Air Canada, but the Quebec government also has to put something on the table," said Francois Legault, the leader of the Coalition Avenir Quebec.
On Monday evening, Air Canada extended $15 million in emergency financing to the maintenance firm. The offer was rejected and the company chose to liquidate its assets, immediately ceasing all operations.
In a statement, the airline said it was "disappointed" by the decision to reject the financing and eschew the route of orderly restructuring.
On Sunday, Aveos announced that it was terminating half of its staff and exiting the airframe repair business. On Monday, the firm declared bankruptcy and a day later it decided to liquidate its assets after the move was approved by the Quebec Superior Court.
"The company had no viable option but to cease operations," said chairman Eugene Davis at the time.
The Montreal-based firm shut down three main plants in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal, as well as other facilities in Edmonton, Calgary, Trenton and Mississauga.
In 2007, Aveos acquired an 80 per cent stake in Aeroman, the aircraft repair affiliate of Taca Airlines, one of Central America's largest airlines. It operates in El Salvador where it does work for airlines such as discount carrier JetBlue.
Air Canada has warned that passengers could be stranded and flights could be delayed if repairs are not made to its aircraft.
With files from The Canadian Press.