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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 aveos.

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

10:10 a.m.

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

Christopher Hiscock

I think if I were responding to a question on union busting, I probably would also be subject to a point of order, so perhaps it's best I don't.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

You have a minute and a half.

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Perhaps I should have used the words “fuddle duddle”. They're fuddle-duddling the workers here.

My question was whether you see this as an exercise in union busting. If the government doesn't act here to provide you with some sort of aid, does it not send a signal to other workers that the government is not going to lift a finger to help the workers of this country?

10:10 a.m.

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

Jean Poirier

I believe that the GM workers were unionized, yet the Conservative government pitched in to save 3,000 jobs in Ontario. I talked to Minister Lebel, who told me that it was a partnership with the Obama administration to save those jobs.

I don’t know if it’s because Air Canada is just a Canadian company and the Americans are not involved. Regardless, the government did it for GM. It also blocked the sale of PotashCorp. I believe that the Conservative government can help unions. I think that it can pitch in now. I think that it might listen to us and that it might do something about the situation by presenting a report to the House of Commons. From what I've heard, today’s discussion will not be passed on to the House of Commons. I would like them to reconsider the decision. Something has to happen.

As to whether there is any union-busting going on, I think it is important to point out everything that unions have created. Status of Women Canada exists thanks to unions. The 40-hour work week exists thanks to unions. Child labour no longer exists thanks to unions. Unions are here for a reason. Managers should not be the only ones involved in making decisions. Without unions, I don’t know what kind of working conditions we would have today.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Thank you.

Mr. Coderre, over to you.

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Chair, if we got started on curse words in French, we’d be here forever. I won't list them all because it would take longer than five minutes. That being said, I'm having a hell of a time with what's going on here today. I think people are trying to dodge the issue. The Conservatives say that they really do care. They say that they care about the fact that you have lost your jobs. The problem is that they are not only killing an industry, but they are also completely disregarding the spirit of the law. The problem is Air Canada. Aveos screwed you, but the problem is still Air Canada.

If I were from Windsor, sure I’d be happy to know that there’s going to be a new hangar that will hire non-unionized workers. As a guy from Montreal, I’m seeing 2,600 jobs lost. And I’m dealing with a government that doesn’t care about the law and doesn’t care about making Air Canada comply with the law. We've got to wake up. This is not just about figuring out what to do with Aveos. I want to protect your jobs and make sure that when a law goes through Parliament, it actually gets enforced. That takes commitment from politicians and the courts. That's why I find that you're soft-pedalling the issue this morning. I mean that with all due respect.

Obviously, we have to protect jobs. We have to find a way to help the employees find work because some of them have not been paid in three weeks. But the union’s primary responsibility is to take the company to court to defend the workers' interests. Mayors and governments of the cities and provinces affected by this have said that they will support you. I hope that you will work on this, get it done and stop beating around the bush.

We know that the Minister of Transport doesn’t want to do his job because the real Minister of Transport is the Prime Minister, who uses the private sector whenever it suits him. He wants to trample on your rights as workers by imposing big-stick legislation to force people back to work. In the meantime, you are still out of a job.

It's the same thing for Winnipeg. We also have to work for the people in Vancouver. Within the law, the spirit of the law, it's about protecting Mississauga, Montreal, and Winnipeg. So we have to do something about that.

So what's your one-two punch?

I hope that the minister, of course, will be able to give you a hand with employment insurance. That also reminds me that there are a lot of people who didn't receive their cheques because there are not enough officials there to work out the process, so you can get the cheques. That's another issue; that's another problem.

Mr. Atkinson, since you're the big cheese today of the union, what do you intend to do? I want the politicians to do their jobs. Of course we won't have a report, but this is televised, so somebody will be listening. But at the same time, what's your timeframe to sue Air Canada?

10:15 a.m.

President and Directing General Chairman, District Lodge 140, Mississauga, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Canada

Chuck Atkinson

That process has already started with our legal people. Any legal process now seems to take forever and ever. Realistically, the reasons why we're here, and what I'm hearing today from both sides here.... It really concerns me. As the chairman pointed out, these are the leaders of the country here, who are supposed to be looking after all of our citizens, and all I'm hearing from the Conservative side is pass the buck, let's deflect, let's talk about how come Air Canada or Aveos is not put into the Air Canada act, and how come the IAM is not in the Air Canada act.... There's no real.... There's nothing coming back from the Conservative side of the House on what we are going to do about it.

We hear that there's a job plan going forward, but my members don't see that. My members are out on the street. As you've heard from all of my confreres here, there's very little that would be needed to get those members back to work. It seems that all we're hearing is “Well, it's someone else's fault, and we can't do anything about this”. That, to me, is not a good answer.

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Atkinson, the government says that we have to deal with our own problems. In last Thursday’s budget, it told everyone to deal with their own problems.

What worries me most is that even if we pass a law, that doesn’t mean anyone has to comply with either the letter or the spirit of that law. We have to find another way. Sooner or later, there will be lots of cases like this one with Aveos. I think that we have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. We have to find a way to protect jobs and maintenance centres, because this is about the industry and the issues the unions are facing within companies. I am not a militant unionist, but I believe that workers have rights. Unions exist for a reason. We have to find the right balance.

I humbly suggest—I can certainly be humble—

find a way.

And we are pushing. I've been there since day one. We're all pushing, but it's not only about Aveos. It's about the future of our aerospace. It's about our future.

Right now we have a hangar in Windsor, and it seems that the law cannot be respected; they're going to give away jobs there. They're going to give the jobs away. They're going to clean out Montreal. Then what? Well, let's go to the United States, because in the States they have all the certificates, and we'll go there.

You have to keep putting the pressure on even though the government has a majority. You have to quit passing the puck around. The union has to say that it will go to court and that it has support from the provincial governments and the opposition.

This is not about changing the law. This is about making sure the law is obeyed. Personally, I am disappointed that the NDP members are talking about whether the law should be changed. Why not start by enforcing and obeying the law? We would only change the law if people were obeying it, but it was not working.

10:20 a.m.

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

Jean Poirier

Mr. Coderre, I would take that even further: the entire federal legislative system should be up for discussion. Nothing is happening. You were absolutely right when you said that nobody is obeying the spirit of the law. These laws are passed democratically. Now they’re telling Canadians that even if the government passes a law, it can change its mind. That’s what they’re doing.

Today we’re talking about the Air Canada Public Participation Act with respect to the maintenance centres, but tomorrow morning, we'll be talking about another law. The government is telling people that laws passed in Canada don’t really mean anything.

Last week, I said that if I robbed a bank, they’d take me away in handcuffs. But now the company is breaking the law, yet nobody is being arrested.

I completely agree with you.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Thank you.

With that, I'll thank our guests today for being here. We do appreciate your input. Hopefully a solution can be found very quickly. Thank you again for your time.

I have some advice for committee members. Because of the change of schedule and Friday is now Thursday, there will be no committee meeting on Thursday.

The meeting is adjourned.