The Quebec government should seek an injunction to stop the dismantling of the Aveos Fleet Performance Inc. aircraft overhaul maintenance centre in Montreal, opposition parties and laid-off workers say.
Immediate action is needed after the company that performed maintenance work on Air Canada aircrafts shut down and filed for bankruptcy last week. Aveos laid off 2,620 Canadian employees, including 1,800 in Montreal.
Marcel St-Jean, president of the Montreal local union of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said time is of the essence since equipment is already being dismantled and full liquidation is expected to begin in the coming days.
“This has to be stopped now so that the maintenance centres in Montreal, Winnipeg and Mississauga become operational again and that the workers savagely laid off by Aveos return to their jobs,” Mr. St-Jean said.
He said workers are becoming increasingly frustrated after receiving their final pay stubs this week but without having any money deposited in their bank accounts.
The union is seeking more than an injunction to stop the liquidation of the Aveos facilities. It also wants the Quebec government to sue Air Canada and the federal government for failing to abide by the 1988 Air Canada Public Participation Act that defined the conditions for the privatization of the airline.
According to the union, the law requires Air Canada to have aircraft overhaul centres in Montreal, Winnipeg and Mississauga, Ont. The Vancouver facility, which was also shut down, was not protected under the act.
Air Canada sold its aircraft overhaul maintenance division in 2007 to Aveos, a privately owned company. The workers remained Air Canada employees until last July. Now, eight months later, they are out of a job, prompting union leaders to believe that the shutdown had been orchestrated.
“We can see that this whole operation has been planned for some time,” said regional union representative Jean Poirier. “The law was adopted to ensure the security of the aircrafts with the work conducted by qualified workers. We are asking governments to be strong and to fight to bring that back.”
The union is also calling on members of Air Canada’s board of directors to intervene, including former Saskatchewan NDP premier Roy Romanow and former Quebec premier Pierre-Marc Johnson, who spearheaded major reforms to the province’s labour law including anti-scab provisions in the late 1970s when he was labour minister in the Parti Québécois government.
“They haven’t said a word,” Mr. Poirier said. “We know these people have a social conscience and we are asking them to intervene.”
Mr. Romanow refused to comment on Wednesday and Mr. Johnson did not return a call requesting an interview.
In an e-mail, the airline reiterated that it was in compliance with the 1988 act, citing an Ontario Superior Court ruling last May to support its argument.
The Quebec government said it was still weighing its options before deciding whether to lead the legal battle.
“We are talking with the union as well as with Air Canada and we will use whatever means available to us,” Premier Jean Charest said in the National Assembly on Wednesday.
PQ Leader Pauline Marois accused Mr. Charest of hesitating because he feared Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s reaction.
“What is stopping Mr. Charest from seeking an injunction and ensure that the federal law is obeyed. … Mr. Charest does not want to confront the federal government,” Ms. Marois said.
The union also called on the province to examine the re-opening of the Aveos facility in Montreal under new ownership. The union has approached the government’s venture capital arm, Investissement Québec, as well as the Quebec Federation of Labour’s Fond de solidarité to set up a financial package that could help attract a private investor.