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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

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Last week, the president of Air Canada told us that, in terms of costs and productivity, Aveos was not a globally competitive business. However, in 1988, the then president of Air Canada said that the company was making a significant profit from its maintenance centres. He also said that Canadian workers were helping to create an effective work centre.

What has changed since 1988? How do you explain the fact that, in 1988, it appeared as though Aveos was effective and was going to succeed but, last week, it was said that this company is not competitive?

9:35 a.m.

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

Jean Poirier

We do not have to look as far back as 1988. We can simply look at the situation that existed shortly before the sale. If you were to come and visit the hangars now, you would see that this is an excellent maintenance centre. The pilots say that it is the best in the world. Air Canada is very satisfied with our services. We are the ones who deliver the planes the most on schedule.

There is a game being played right now. Mr. Rovinescu is talking about a loss of a billion dollars but I think that it is actually $5 million that was given to shareholders over the past seven years. People need to stop saying that we have lost a billion dollars. It is being said that we are losing money when my order book and my engine maintenance centre are full, and we have even had to use subcontractors all year. My colleagues can confirm this. It does not make sense.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Last week, when you demonstrated on Parliament Hill, I went and met with a number of workers. Oddly enough, they told me that, over the past few months, the company offered you a lot more training, equipment, coats and more.

9:35 a.m.

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

Jean Poirier

It is sometimes said that the situation was planned in advance. In the beginning, Aveos was in all of Air Canada's facilities, but then Air Canada started renting its facilities to Aveos by square foot, and I can tell you that it charged an exorbitant price. Aveos therefore had no other choice but to move the components maintenance centre to another building, which cost a lot of money.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

I would like to come back to the question that my colleague asked earlier. In the beginning, you said that you were here because you want the federal government to intervene. You do not want to put the ball in anyone else's court. You want—

9:35 a.m.

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

Jean Poirier

We want help. That is what we want.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

You want help but you are finding that the act, as it stands now, is not comprehensive enough to give you all the help you need. You want to change the act.

9:35 a.m.

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

Jean Poirier

In my opinion, the act is clear. The spirit of the act is clear. Benoît Bouchard feels the same way as we do. He was the transport minister. The experts who came in 1988 said that, if someone wanted to sell these overhaul centres, then the act would have to be amended. The act has not been amended. For us, the act is clear. Legal opinions are being presented, but they depend on what side you are on. You can have a legal opinion say whatever you want.

Let us look at the Newbold ruling. Aveos was doing maintenance in its facilities. It was saying that it was respecting the spirit of the act, but Aveos is no longer there.

9:35 a.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

For you, it does not matter whether or not you work for Aveos. What matters is that the jobs are kept in Montreal.

9:35 a.m.

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

Jean Poirier

That is why I am telling you today that the spirit of the act must be respected. If a supplier wants to come in and buy the facilities, Air Canada must provide a guarantee that it will give its contracts to that supplier.

Right now, in the spirit of the act, the government must force Air Canada and tell Air Canada that it might need some help, that perhaps it is not capable of taking back most of the maintenance, that the provinces are prepared to invest, that the cities may be prepared to provide a tax break and that the federal government may be prepared to put some money into this. The federal government must also tell Air Canada that we will all help, that we will bring back the workers and that we will find a supplier that is prepared to keep this industry operational.

Everyone must return to work. We are here talking and nothing is happening. We have been talking about this for three weeks. The workers are still unable to obtain employment insurance benefits.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

I know. That is what you told me earlier. The employees do not have any money right now. We know that the government claims to be aware of this, but being aware of the problem is not enough. Action must be taken.

In your opinion, what steps must be taken in the next two or three days to remedy this situation?

9:40 a.m.

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

Jean Poirier

Right now, we are really waiting for a saviour. There is no other word for it. We are waiting for someone who is really involved, who wants to get the maintenance, repair and overhaul sector going again with the best technicians in the world. We are not the only ones who are saying this.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

You met with the minister. What did he say to you during that meeting?

9:40 a.m.

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

Jean Poirier

When I met with the minister, he first told me that he was looking into the situation. He must have told me that 20 times. He also told me that his door was still open.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

He told you that he was aware of the situation.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Yes. That is it. Surprise. Surprise.

9:40 a.m.

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

Jean Poirier

Yes. He told me to leave my door open, so the door is open. I hope that your door is open to bring these workers back to work in the hangars, whether it be with the help of Lufthansa Technik, MTU or any of the other companies whose names have been thrown around but who, to date, have not shown any real interest.

Something has to happen. There is an urgent need. You are not the ones who are out in the street; I am, along with the workers. If you like, you can come with me. We can go and meet them. It may stir your emotions, if you have any.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Thank you.

Mr. Watson.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to our witnesses for appearing.

We appreciate the difficulty that families are facing, the workers you represent, and the challenges that still lie ahead with regard to securing the best outcome for workers.

I was a CAW Local 444 worker at Chrysler for a little over six years. I remember when the Pillette Road truck assembly plant closed. I was a junior employee with no seniority trying to raise a family, and I can appreciate that those are difficult moments.

Moving to the testimony here today and your written statement, maybe this is just a peculiar thing—I don't know whether it was intentional or not, and you can clarify that for me—but I notice in your statement you blame the government and Air Canada but Aveos is not mentioned anywhere in terms of blame, in terms of how it's operated as a company or anything like that. There is no responsibility attributed to Aveos. Are any of you implying somehow that Aveos is a victim?

Who would like to answer that? I see heads indicating no.

9:40 a.m.

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

Chuck Atkinson

No, we definitely don't think that Aveos is a victim. It may just have been an oversight; I don't know.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Okay, fair enough.

Aveos had choices. They could have diversified their clientele base further to secure their future. In this difficult case where they decided to wind up operations they could have chosen restructuring over bankruptcy, for example. They chose the latter.

On the idea of restructuring, did Aveos inform you, the union, of Air Canada's offer of $15 million toward restructuring the operations? Were you informed of that?

9:40 a.m.

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

Chuck Atkinson

Not until after the shutdown.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Okay, fair enough.

Was Aveos profitable as a company, and if so, in what years were they profitable?

April 3rd, 2012 / 9:40 a.m.

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

I don't think there were ever profits.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Okay.

Mr. Didoshak, in your testimony, talking about quarterly meetings with Air Canada and Aveos, you mentioned that in the last year there has been a declining amount of work and almost left the impression that somehow one bad year is what made for bankruptcy at Aveos. That's not the case. In fact--