Aveos workers have found new allies in the Parti Québécois and Coalition Avenir Québec, whose leaders took up their three-year-old struggle against Air Canada Wednesday.
PQ leader Pierre Karl Péladeau and CAQ leader François Legault, joined by Aveos employee representative Jean Poirier, urged the Quebec government to continue its legal challenge against Air Canada.
Aveos was once Air Canada's technical services division but was later spun off as a separate company. The airline was Aveos's largest customer, providing about 90 per cent of its maintenance overhaul work.
A change in that relationship in 2012 led the company to declare bankruptcy and lay off 1,800 employees in Montreal.
The Quebec government launched a lawsuit against Air Canada in the wake of the closure of Aveos, arguing the airline broke a 1988 federal rule that required the airline to have its planes serviced in Montreal.
A 2013 Quebec Superior Court decision sided with the provincial government and that ruling was upheld by the Appeal Court of Quebec in 2015.
In January, Air Canada asked the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn that ruling.
Since then, the Quebec government has said that it was dropping the case in the wake of the airline's decision to buy 45 new C Series aircraft from Bombardier. Air Canada has also promised to perform upkeep on those new aircraft in Quebec.
An 'odious bargain': Péladeau
Péladeau said the deal was an "odious bargain" that sold out Aveos employees.
"He had the tools to negotiate," the PQ leader said of Premier Philippe Couillard.
Legault agreed, pointing to the government's recent $1.3 billion bailout of the troubled C Series.
"When we give money to a business, we have the right to expect something in return," he said.
Employees 'manipulated,' says Couillard
Couillard responded Wednesday, saying legal proceedings against Air Canada will only be dropped once the company confirms that it is going ahead with the new maintenance centre in Quebec.
Couillard also said it was cruel for the PQ and CAQ to lead Aveos employees to believe they might get their jobs back.
"I have a lot of sympathy and empathy for the workers, but they're being manipulated by the two opposition parties, who aren't telling them the truth," he said.