Evidence of meeting #31 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was air.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Chuck Atkinson  President and Directing General Chairman, District Lodge 140, Mississauga, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada
  • Jean Poirier  General Chairman, District Lodge 140, Montréal, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada
  • Gilles Brosseau  Québec Coordinator, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada
  • Louis Erlichman  Canadian Research Director, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada
  • Tony Didoshak  General Chairman, District Lodge 140, Winnipeg, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada
  • Christopher Hiscock  President, Local Lodge 764, Richmond, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I just want to go over some of what we've been told so far. First, the government will not let us question Aveos, so we can't indirectly through you ask these questions we're trying to ask about how Aveos managed to collapse. The government also won't let some of you talk when it comes to monetary issues.

The investors bought the equipment. The equipment still exists. So while the government is suggesting Aveos burned through $1 billion of money, that's actually not true, because the equipment still exists. Nobody burned through anything. They paid their employees a bunch of money over the course of however long they were there. Those investors are probably going to be first in line to get their money back, ahead of the employees. Certainly the employees have nothing at the moment, not even EI.

The minister got a legal opinion that runs contrary to everything the government has said. Both Liberal and Conservative governments since 1998 have all said it couldn't happen, that what just happened couldn't happen, wouldn't happen. Now the minister says “Oops--it happened.” Oops isn't good enough for you folks, or for the 2,600 people you represent. Oops is not acceptable to us, and it shouldn't be acceptable to the government.

The answer, clearly, appears to be that Air Canada has done everything it can to shed expensive labour. That's really what, to us on this side, seems to be going on. Air Canada's statement to us during the hearing on Thursday was that they signed a deal that was favourable to Aveos. If it's favourable to Aveos, it's not favourable to Air Canada. If it's not favourable to Air Canada, I'd want to get out of that deal as quickly as I could. So it makes sense that Air Canada would stop sending planes to Aveos in order to starve it. That appears to be what went on, but we'll never know, because the government won't let us question Aveos.

Now everybody here seems to be grasping at straws and asking, can we find another investor? Can we find another player to try to take over this equipment? The equipment is sitting there. Air Canada's not using it. Aveos isn't using it. The government is sitting on its hands, saying it's not our problem; it's a private issue between two private players. The law has no teeth. It has no meaning as far as the government is concerned, despite statements over many years that we shouldn't worry because this will never happen.

What should have happened when the government first became aware that Aveos was running into trouble with Air Canada and they told us not to worry, nothing will happen? What should the government have done to ensure that Air Canada lived up to the spirit of the law, which was that this work would stay in Canada, in Winnipeg, Mississauga, and Montreal?

9:50 a.m.

President, Local Lodge 764, Richmond, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

Christopher Hiscock

I'll speak to this a little bit and to a few other things.

One of the first questions asked by a member was why Aveos was not mentioned in the act and why the IAM was not mentioned in the act. I think that some of this questioning on where we are proved exactly what Aveos was created to do, and that was to become a little bit of a red herring and to do exactly what you suggested, which was to allow Air Canada to shed labour and labour costs.

I saw some media reports from some Air Canada executives last week that suggested they were willing to and would love to keep the work in Canada, but attached to that was a quote, “at globally competitive rates”. We understand that licensed aircraft engineers in Central America earn $500 a month. So for somebody working a 40-hour workweek in Canada, that equates to just over $3 an hour. I certainly hope Air Canada's not suggesting that that's what it would take to keep those jobs in Canada.

We view Aveos's Air Canada maintenance as a turnkey operation. You've hit it exactly. The facilities are there. The workers are there. The skills are there. All it needs is a willingness for somebody to go in, unlock the door, and turn on the lights. It would take literally 72 hours to get this operation up and running, to get these people back to work doing this maintenance.

Essentially we have come here looking for leadership from the government on an issue, and the government is the sole entity in Canada that has responsibility for making that happen. Air Canada is a federally regulated transport carrier. It is the national airline. It was a crown corporation. It was privatized under the Public Participation Act. The spirit of that act and intent of that act were to make it an airline that worked for Canada and that had Canadians working for it, and that is why we are here.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

Thank you.

Mr. Adler.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank all of the witnesses for being here today. I know this can't be an easy time for any of you, or for your membership. But I just want you to know—and I'm sure I can speak on behalf of all members—that any job loss in this country is one too many. That's why we, as a government, have a plan in place to create jobs and economic growth and long-term prosperity. I just want to say that.

You indicated in your remarks that you have been in touch with other levels of government in your effort to come to an equitable resolution to all of this. What kinds of discussions have taken place, and what have they produced, if anything?

9:50 a.m.

President, Local Lodge 764, Richmond, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

Christopher Hiscock

I was in Victoria on Tuesday with a delegation of 57 of our members. We met with both the official opposition and the B.C. Liberal government. The message we got is that this is an important issue for British Columbia and for Canada, and that this has to be done in a non-partisan way. We weren't interested in going to Victoria to get into politics with the Liberals, the NDP, or the Conservatives. This is something all the parties have to rise above. We were simply looking to put the stakeholders together and work towards a solution.

We asked for the support of the government. We felt it was especially significant in British Columbia, because Vancouver is not mentioned specifically in the Air Canada Public Participation Act. When Air Canada was privatized, Vancouver was the main base for Canadian Airlines.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

I apologize, but—

9:55 a.m.

President, Local Lodge 764, Richmond, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

Christopher Hiscock

I'll cut it short.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Were there any substantive proposals that came forward?

9:55 a.m.

President, Local Lodge 764, Richmond, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

Christopher Hiscock

We didn't have substantive proposals. We asked would they come to Ottawa and work with us and the federal government to try to get a national solution. The commitment we got from the 83 MLAs in Victoria was that they would.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Has the union considered buying into the company?

9:55 a.m.

President, Local Lodge 764, Richmond, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

Christopher Hiscock

No, but this was also a question asked by the Government of British Columbia. We haven't gone that far down any particular road, but we don't rule out any situation. We simply want to get people together. There has to be a solution. I refuse to believe that there is not a solution that will make this work. So I don't rule anything out. Everything would have to be looked at in context.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

At the time that Aveos was spun off from Air Canada, was your bargaining unit in favour of that or against it?

9:55 a.m.

President, Local Lodge 764, Richmond, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

Christopher Hiscock

We were 100% opposed.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Okay.

9:55 a.m.

President, Local Lodge 764, Richmond, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

Christopher Hiscock

We foresaw exactly what has happened today. We foresaw this as a chance to get rid of our members—their benefits, their pensions—and to ultimately push them aside.