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Manitoba steps up efforts to help laid-off Aveos workers

March 22, 2012, Winnipeg - The Manitoba government says it's going to bat to help save more than 400 Winnipeg-based jobs that were axed after Aveos Fleet Performance Inc. closed its plants this week.


March 22, 2012
By CBC News

Peter Bjornson, the province's minister of entrepreneurship, training and trade, is set to meet with David Emerson, a former Conservative MP who now heads up a federal review of Canada's aerospace industry, in Winnipeg on Wednesday afternoon.

The meeting was scheduled well before Aveos, a private aircraft maintenance firm that received up to 90 per cent of its work from Air Canada, suddenly shut down its three main plants in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal on Sunday.

Aveos filed for creditor protection on Monday, citing "uncertain work volume across its business lines" from Air Canada.

On Tuesday, the company said it will begin liquidating its assets, meaning all of its 2,600 employees across the country are now out of work.

About 412 of those employees were based at the Aveos airframe repair facility in Winnipeg, which maintained Air Canada's Airbus and Embraer fleet, according to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

Bjornson said he plans to use Wednesday's meeting to lobby Ottawa to make sure Air Canada continues to have its aircraft maintained in Winnipeg.

"I think we can make the case as to why the jobs should stay here in Manitoba," Bjornson told CBC News on Tuesday.

"We'll certainly be advocating … for that facility to continue to operate here."

Minister cites federal act

Bjornson said he wants the federal government to enforce the Air Canada Public Participation Act, which requires the airline "to maintain operational and overhaul centres in the City of Winnipeg" as well as in Montreal and Mississauga, Ont.

"The act does say that Air Canada must maintain maintenance facilities in Winnipeg, so that is something that we'll continually point to as part of that discussion," he said.

Bjornson said Premier Greg Selinger is scheduled to meet with national union representatives on Saturday. Labour Minister Jennifer Howard already met with local union officials earlier this week, he added.

Air Canada's exclusive contract with Aveos expires in June 2013 and Air Canada has issued a request for proposals for future contracts.

Bjornson said he is open to any organization that would be interested in taking over the Aveos facility in Winnipeg and getting the laid-off employees back to work.

"At the end of the day, Air Canada has to maintain their planes," he said.

"We have to look at ways that they can restructure how that maintenance is delivered — or for Air Canada, quite frankly, they have to look at how they can restructure that."

Union official blasts MPs

Dave Ritchie, the IAMAW's Canadian general vice-president, agreed that the federal act forcing Air Canada to maintain a centre in Winnipeg still applies.

'They're taking their Easter break while all of these people and their lives are in turmoil.'—Dave Ritchie
However, Ritchie accused federal politicians of being absent.

"The government has a responsibility to ensure the act is upheld. They are nowhere to be had. Absolutely nowhere," he said.

"They're taking their Easter break while all of these people and their lives are in turmoil."

Air Canada said it will activate its contingency plan, which will ensure the aircraft maintenance work continues, so that customers would not be inconvenienced.

But Ritchie said the airline's contingency plan, which would involve having the aircraft serviced in other locations, would be in violation of the federal act.

"It's got to be done, as the act says, in Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg," he said.

"It doesn't matter what their contingency plans are. This is where it had to be done."

Aveos started out in 1937 as Air Canada Technical Services, the airline's in-house maintenance division. It became an independent company an October 2007 and was renamed Aveos the following year, according to its website.