Aveos shutdown prompts Charest legal threat

Quebec's premier threatens legal action against Ottawa, and the national assembly supports a motion to help company employees.

Aircraft repair company blames Air Canada for loss of business and layoffs

A laid-off Aveos employee is arrested during a demonstration in front of the aircraft maintenance company's plant Tuesday in Montreal. Workers took their case to Quebec's national assembly. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Quebec Premier Jean Charest has threatened to sue the federal government over the Aveos shutdown, while the province's national assembly unanimously passed a motion promising to do everything it could to help the company's employees.

About 2,000 workers at the aircraft maintenance firm in Quebec are out of work after the company closed up shop because of a lack of work from its main customer, Air Canada. 

About 200 Aveos workers came in busloads to the national assembly in Quebec City to watch a Parti Québécois-led motion promising to do everything possible to help the employees. The motion passed without opposition. Legislators mulled over the possibility of taking legal action before Charest made the comment directly on Wednesday.

Aveos aerospace workers gather in Montreal on Wednesday morning. (Elias Abboud/CBC)

Aveos has laid off almost all its 2,600 unionized employees across the country and is liquidating its assets. Marcel St. Jean, president of Local 1751 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said the overall number may be 3,000 when non-unionized workers are included.

"[What] we're going to be asking today is, please intervene and go after Air Canada in court if you have to," St. Jean said. "Because we're saying that Air Canada is not respecting the Air Canada Act."

Aveos said Tuesday it is shutting three main plants in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Montreal, as well as other facilities in Edmonton, Calgary, and in Trenton and Mississauga in Ontario.

Union spokesman Bill Trbovich said the union workers affected include:

  • 1,785 in Montreal.
  • 412 in Winnipeg.
  • 356 in Vancouver.

Federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel called the job losses "devastating" but added that Aveos's decisions are those of a private company.

"The law is the law: the Air Canada Public Participation Act requires Air Canada to maintain operational and overhaul centres in Montreal, Mississauga and Winnipeg," he said in a statement.

Aveos , which gets about 90 per cent of its business from Air Canada, says a drop in work has cost it millions of dollars in revenue in recent months.

Aveos also says an offer of $15 million from Air Canada isn't enough to keep the company going.

The airline offered the financial pledge Monday afternoon after "months of protracted negotiations," but that didn't "appropriately address Aveos's challenges" and made "clear that a restructuring under [creditor protection] would not be possible," a company release said. 

Missing some landing gear

Air Canada said Tuesday it was disappointed in Aveos's decision to reject the emergency financing.

The airline had said three wide-body planes and several narrow-body aircraft were sitting in Aveos facilities across the country, some missing landing gear.

"Since the beginning of the year, [Aveos's] principal customer reduced, deferred and cancelled maintenance work, which resulted in approximately $16 million in lost revenue in less than two months," Aveos said in its release.

"While Aveos remained ready, willing and able to perform such work, such work did not materialize. This was a devastating blow to Aveos."

The airline said Tuesday that work was deferred when Aveos could not comply.

Air Canada said 3,000 passengers could be stranded daily if Aveos doesn't finish ongoing work on some of its planes.