Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt the employees of Air Canada have faced difficult, if not extremely difficult, days and weeks. There is no doubt that all employees in air transportation will be profoundly affected by the announced layoffs.
We have just read in today's paper of other possible layoffs, especially in the Montreal area. Our government knows very well that, where jobs are involved, it is already difficult enough to deal with the precariousness of some of them.
I would like to assure my colleague opposite that we are doing everything in our power to help the employees affected and their company, in this time of uncertainty and great difficulty.
And what about Air Canada employees? The Minister of Human Resources Development has expressed this same message of concern about employees who have been laid off and those who may be very soon to the representatives of Air Canada, when she met them at the beginning of the month.
I believe it is important to look at the chronology of what the department, and the minister in particular, have done. She again made herself perfectly clear on this at another subsequent meeting with representatives of the department and of Air Canada at which programs available from HRDC to help their employees were discussed.
The job share program is precisely one of the measures HRDC has proposed to Air Canada.
I have been asked by a number of people just what this job sharing is all about. It is a very interesting program, one that does not necessarily suit all companies, but which could be put in place in the case of Air Canada, for example, or any other company that meets the program criteria.
It is intended to help employers forced to take austerity measures, and this means that layoffs may be avoided.
How can this result be achieved? The work week is shortened, and wages are reduced accordingly. HRDC lets the workers draw EI benefits for the days they do not work, which helps compensate for the reduction in wages.
So, in participating workplaces, employees receive partial salaries but also draw employment insurance benefits.
The main advantage of this program is what it has to offer employees. Not only does it help lessen the difficulties surrounding layoff, but it also helps workers retain their skills and continue to make profitable use of them in their work.
The next step between the employers and the department was a meeting between departmental and Air Canada representatives. So far, discussions have mainly focused on job sharing as a means of reducing the number of layoffs.
Now the ball is in the airlines' and unions' court, as they have to look at the mechanisms of application they would like to see put in place in connection with the job sharing agreements.
I am confident at this time that good will and flexibility will make it possible for us to support one or more job sharing agreements in the airline industry.