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Winnipeggers testify in Quebec over Aveos closures

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Winnipeggers were part of a court battle being waged in Quebec this week in a fight to return jobs to Manitoba.

Tony Didoshak, general chairman of the Winnipeg-based International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), said he testified in an ongoing hearing in Quebec Superior Court which began earlier this week. Didoshak said a court battle is being waged between Air Canada and the provinces of Quebec and Manitoba to force Air Canada to reopen bases that closed last year. Approximately 400 unionized jobs were lost after the Aveos airframe maintenance base in Winnipeg shut down in March 2012, he said.

Most of those jobs were in aerospace, such as aircraft technicians and mechanics.

Both provinces are claiming Air Canada has violated the Air Canada Public Participation Act, he said.

"Since the closure of Aveos in Winnipeg, we’re down to 16 aircraft mechanics," said Didoshak.

"In my opinion, and obviously in the province of Manitoba’s opinion, that does not an overhaul base make."

The Act means Air Canada should maintain overhaul facilities in Dorval, Mississauga and Winnipeg, he said, instead of outsourcing the jobs to places outside Canada.

Didoshak said he’s hopeful the court will rule in favour of bringing the jobs back to the province.

"We’re hoping that the court will rule that the Air Canada is in violation of the Public Participation Act, and that jobs will be reinstated in Manitoba and Quebec," he said.

Another Winnipegger, Mike Maskell, an aircraft maintenance engineer with more than two decades experience at the maintenance facility, said he also testified in Quebec.

"We feel that there’s been an injustice done here to us, that people deserve a better outcome to having been thrown to the street in such a drastic fashion, and Air Canada needs to kind of step up and say, ‘Yes, we do need to have our work performed, we do need to have it performed in Canada,’" said Maskell.

"And there’s a willing workforce right here, there’s a hangar environment that could be brought up to speed in short order and revitalized again, and bring these jobs back to Manitoba."

Aveos began after Air Canada spun off its technical services division in 2007, and did most of the repair and heavy maintenance work on its planes, according to Winnipeg Free Press archives.

It was closing its Canadian operations because it was no longer getting sufficient work from Air Canada, according to earlier reports.

The hearings are continuing in Montreal, and a ruling is anticipated in the next six months.

-- with archived files from Murray McNeill

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