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Guests board a plane in Air Canada’s hanger at Toronto's Pearson Airport on Tuesday June 25, 2013.Chris Young/The Canadian Press

Air Canada's largest union wants the Canada Industrial Relations Board to declare that the airline itself is the employer of workers at its Rouge and Sky Regional units, a move that the union hopes will prevent outsourcing of its members jobs.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), is seeking to save the jobs of its members who maintain and clean aircraft and handle baggage for Air Canada and its new, lower-cost rouge unit.

"Under Air Canada's control and direction, aircraft and routes are being transferred to Air Canada rouge and Sky Regional Airlines," the union's District Lodge 140 chairman Fred Hospes said in a statement. "We have filed these applications to allow us to protect work done by our members and their jobs at Air Canada."

When the agreement between Air Canada and the union expires in 2016, the airline wants Rouge to be able to hire its own baggage handlers and maintenance employees at lower wage rates and with more flexible work rules, similar to agreements it has already reached with pilots and flight attendants.

The union said in its application to the board that its members no longer perform maintenance work on 15 Embraer aircraft that Air Canada has transferred to Sky Regional.

"What Air Canada obtains from Sky Regional is neither seat capacity, nor routes, nor aircraft, nor access to a pre-existing infrastructure, but rather, the opportunity to have operations carried out outside the scope of its own bargaining certifications by lower-cost, non-union labour," the union's application said.

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the airline has worked with employees to create Rouge as "a competitive entity in the low-cost market."

Employees recognize the importance of relationships with smaller carriers to Air Canada's competitiveness and profitability, Mr. Fitzpatrick added.

He said the company is aware of the union's application, but needs to study the submissions it made to the board before commenting further.

The IAM represents about 8,800 workers at Air Canada.