An executive with IMP Aerospace says the 44 employees laid off in the Halifax-area last week could be back on the job within months, and the cuts are due to a temporary delay rather than an outright cancellation of a contract with the Department of Defence.

IMP Aerospace executive vice-president Tom Galley said the company is still under contract to maintain and repair two military aircraft: the CP-140 Aurora, a maritime patrol plane, and the CH-149 Cormorant, a search and rescue helicopter.

On Tuesday, the union that represents workers at IMP Aerospace said it was told some contracts hadn't been renewed.

But the job has only been delayed, Galley said, while the Department of Defence reviews the work requirements and conditions of the contract.

Galley said his employees have worked on 10 Aurora aircraft since 2010, and there are four left to do. That should provide work for another two years, he said.

"In fact, the eleventh aircraft is sitting in plant right now, it's just that we're unable to work on it until we have contract definition in place."

The likelihood that many of the laid-off employees will be re-hired is "very good," Galley said, and that could happen within the next few months.

Delay 'undetermined'

He said the industry isn't as stable as it once was because of "the way the world economy is, and the fact that everyone's negotiating contracts which tend to be shorter-term or have much tighter bottom lines associated with them."

"That said though, the contracts that we have in place are multi-year, long-term contracts, and we do expect to see the bulk of our workforce maintained in a stable fashion."

Galley estimates the delay will cost the company between $100,000 and $200,000 of unrealized revenue each week. As for how long the delay might last, "this is undetermined," Galley said.

"This is highly dependent on our customers. I suspect it could easily be a few months as a minimum, but it could easily be longer."

The pending retirement of the aging CH-124 Sea King helicopters, which fly from the decks of Canadian warships, could also have an impact on operations down the line, Galley said. IMP Aerospace currently does maintenance on Sea Kings, he said. Employees who do that work will be offered work on other fleets wherever possible. 

"Of course, because of the age of the Sea King and the time it's been around, a number of our employees are close to retirement age anyway, so we expect to see some attrition through that element of work."