'I don't have a plan B': Quebec's Bombardier workers await their fate after latest round of cuts

The Montreal-based aerospace giant announced Thursday it would be cutting 5,000 jobs. Half of them will be in Quebec. But when and who will be affected isn't clear.

Bombardier job cuts come after hefty public investments, backlash over executive bonuses

David Chartrand, who represents Quebec machinists and aerospace workers, says he has hope for Bombardier employees who will lose their jobs thanks to labour shortages in the Canadian aerospace industry. (Radio-Canada)

Sylvain Roy has worked for Bombardier nearly three decades. He may soon be out of a job.

Roy is among thousands of Quebec employees now anxiously awaiting specifics about the company's latest cuts.

"Is it going to be just before Christmas? Is it going to be right after? We don't know. It's a big question mark," he said outside the company's Ville Saint-Laurent plant. 

"This is what I do for a living," he said. "I don't have a plan B, I've been here all my life."

The Montreal-based aerospace giant announced Thursday it would be cutting 5,000 jobs. Half of them will be in Quebec. But when and who will be affected isn't clear. 

The news is being met with anger by opposition politicians in the province, who criticize the company for laying off thousands after benefiting from public funding, and consternation among workers who have been faced with uncertainty before.

Quebec Premier François Legault said in a tweet that the government would "do everything it can to minimize the number of job losses and to help employees find new work."

Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon added that he's confident the cuts won't hurt the strength of the province's aerospace industry.

"Bombardier is a key player of the industry, but it is not the only player," Fitzgibbon said in a news conference Thursday.

"I spoke to the CEOs of the top three [aerospace carriers] in Quebec and they are all in recruiting mode."

Bombardier execs derided as 'gluttons' 

Parti Québécois interim leader Pascal Bérubé called for stronger government action, including demanding that executives renounce their recent pay hikes.

"I don't have a lot of sympathy for Bombardier executives, gluttons who enriched themselves with public money," he said.

Bérubé said it was bad optics for Bombardier to make job cuts two years after it received the last instalment of a $1.3-billion bailout from the Quebec government into its C Series program. 

The new Bombardier CS300 sits in the hangar before its maiden test flight in Mirabel, Que. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The company faced backlash last spring after it approved hefty pay packages to a handful of senior executives, while receiving money from the government.

The PQ leader called on those executives to renounce their bonuses and on the company to cancel the job cuts. 

Bombardier spokesperson Simon Letendre confirmed another 500 jobs will be cut in Ontario, on top of the 2,500 in Quebec. 

Dominique Anglade, Quebec's former economy minister and a Liberal MNA, said in a tweet the current government must "quickly take concrete action to support all of the workers and to preserve this expertise in Quebec." 

The company defended itself, saying the restructuring simply involved cutting aspects of the business that weren't experiencing as much growth as other areas.

It said the cuts had nothing to do with the C Series deal, which guaranteed that program's employees work until 2041.

Before the holidays 'once again'

David Chartrand, who represents most of Quebec's Bombardier workers, said Thursday's announcement was "unfortunate and distressing."

"The biggest frustration is that Bombardier has once again announced major cuts just before the holidays," said Chartrand, the Quebec co-ordinator of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

Parti Québécois interim leader Pascal Bérubé called on Bombardier executives to renounce their bonuses, in light of 5,000 job cuts announced Thursday. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Chartrand said he hopes the union can reach a deal with CAE that would be similar to the deal struck with Airbus: for CAE to hire Bombardier employees and keep their seniority.

Despite the worry, Chartrand says he has hope that the employees will find other aerospace jobs, given labour shortages in the industry.

By 2027, he said, aerospace companies will need an extra 30,000 people to fill those shortages if the trend continues.

With files from CBC reporter Jaela Bernstien and Radio-Canada