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

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

If you were the federal Minister of Transport, I wonder what your solution would be. If you could make a ruling right now, what would it be?

9:55 a.m.

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

Christopher Hiscock

Originally we talked about legal opinions. Legal opinions are all over the map. I think some of the members on the committee had a valid point about making the law say what it was supposed to say, to beef it up.

This, to us, is simply about keeping Canadian expertise, Canadian jobs, and Canadian work in Canada. I don't want to get tied up in the ideology of what's a corporate name, or if there is a union representing the workers. There are 2,600 families who woke up this morning wondering how they're going to feed their kids and pay their mortgages. That is our prime concern and that's why we're here.

Time is of the essence. Workers need to be paid, facilities are sitting idle while things are being tied up in bankruptcy courts. We view this as a turnkey operation. So the sooner we can turn the lights back on and get people back to work, the better it is for everybody, including Air Canada.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

You mentioned that a bailout would be one option, and I understand that. But should the government be there to bail out every private company whenever, through mismanagement or whatever reason, a lot of workers happen to be displaced? Should that be the number-one priority?

9:55 a.m.

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

Christopher Hiscock

We're not looking for a bailout. In my opinion, that's not why we came here. We're simply looking to get a business climate and for the government to facilitate to the extent it can to make this work for all the parties. From what I understand from the Conservative agenda, it is a business-friendly party and that is what it wants to do.

As I said, there has to be a solution within this country. I refuse to believe that we're not smart enough in this country to figure out how to do this work in Canada. It's been done for 75 years; we didn't lose this ability in six months.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Merv Tweed

Mr. Holder.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Mr. Chair, I'd like to thank our guests for attending this morning.

I want to add my comments. I know that we all feel around this table the empathy for the 2,600 employees and their families and frankly about the spinoff jobs that go outside of that as well. I think we all appreciate that. In my own city, that has certainly happened. Any time any company fails, it isn't just the company, obviously; it's clearly the employees and the spinoff work. It isn't just the union jobs; it's the management jobs, the non-management jobs, and all the others that are impacted by feeder organizations in those communities.

Your hearts can't not go out to those people. I want to make that very clear. This is an interesting discussion, interesting from the standpoint.... I'm not sure if I want to call it “mixed messages”, but I'm a little confused.

Mr. Hiscock, in some of your testimony earlier you said just unlock the door and turn on the lights. You indicated that this is a turnkey operation and to the extent that equipment is all in good repair and in order, which it presumably is, within 72 hours it could be operational again. As a person with some business background, I'd say if it were only that easy to do it just that way. I'm certainly not talking about the technical aspect of unlocking the door, but there is the other aspect. There's the part where it's important that we keep employees working, but it's important that a company needs to make money to do that.

One of you indicated, I think it was Mr. Hiscock, that they were never profitable. I guess when I look at the investment that they made.... I have to believe that Aveos as a company initially acted in good faith to try to create a profitable organization. If it's not profitable, you can't sustain yourself. In business, just like a budget, we all understand that.

Could you presume that any company that would invest in the assets of this organization, with the labour force that's there and the markets that are there, could be profitable? How long do you think it would take to get to profitability?

10 a.m.

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

Christopher Hiscock

You're way outside of my area of expertise in terms of corporate profitability, but I believe that the elements are there to make a successful company.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

I'm sorry, could you say that again? I apologize.

10 a.m.

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

Christopher Hiscock

I believe the elements are all there to make a successful company. I think that a lot of where this needs to go is that there needs to be a properly managed and properly run company. That's been our opinion for quite some time, simply with the dealings we've had with the management group that has been in place.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Mr. Didoshak, you indicated that the union had ideas as to how Aveos could have diversified its business when it was operational. Could you clarify and help us understand what some of those ideas could have been?

10 a.m.

General Chairman, District Lodge 140, Winnipeg, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

Tony Didoshak

One of the ideas we had was work role changes that we could have implemented at the time. But prior to doing something like that, you have to understand the expenses that Aveos had.

When we spoke to Aveos management prior to them filing for CCAA, they had advised us that they were paying exorbitant amounts of rent to Air Canada in regard to the facilities they were using. The number given to me in Winnipeg was $380,000 a month for the hangar. You can do the math on what $380,000 a month would be, which would precipitate the $95-per-hour labour cost that Aveos was charging back to Air Canada.

If you take that cost away, or at least minimize the cost to a reasonable level, then you could go out and actually find companies out there that would be willing to bring work in at a lesser rate. Air Canada told us this when it had ACTS, and Aveos has told us that if they could get their rates down to $60 an hour they could attract third-party business.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

To be candid, if I might, because I appreciate learning through you, did they ever talk with you about the cost of labour as one of their issues they had to deal with?

10 a.m.

General Chairman, District Lodge 140, Winnipeg, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

Tony Didoshak

Every company talks about the cost of labour as being an issue. The cost of labour was not—

10 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

But you indicated there was another issue. You talked about hangar costs as well.

10 a.m.

General Chairman, District Lodge 140, Winnipeg, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

Tony Didoshak

Hangar costs were exorbitant expenses. One of the things that I noticed with Aveos, when they purchased their ACTS from Air Canada, was the money flow they had for implementation of new purchasing processes, new computer programs, lean management programs that they launched. The money flowing out of there was quite substantial.