Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hopes of reviving Aveos grounded

Former workers rue equipment sale

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ANY hopes of reviving the former Aveos/Air Canada airframe maintenance base in Winnipeg just left town, some of its former workers say.

They said all of the aircraft overhaul and maintenance equipment in the base's two hangars was recently sold and hauled away.

"You could fire a cannon off in there and maybe you'd hit a mouse," said Don Laferriere, a representative with Local 714 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. "Both hangars are completely empty."

Laferriere and former co-worker Wayne Whelan both worked as aircraft maintenance structural engineers at the base up until Aveos Fleet Performance Inc. suddenly ceased operations in March. They said as long as the equipment was still there, there was still hope another aerospace company would take over the facilities and rehire most of the approximately 400 former employees.

"We have all the skills. They wouldn't even have to tell us what to do," Whelan said. "But now that (hope) is gone."

Laferriere said he's been staying in touch with most of the former Aveos workers, and he estimates only about 15 per cent of them have found new jobs. The rest continue to collect Employment Insurance benefits and cling to the hope they'll find work before their benefits run out this year.

He and Whelan said they and many of their former co-workers don't want to leave Manitoba, even though there are aircraft-maintenance jobs available in other parts of the country. Their families have strong ties here, and most of those jobs are contract positions that aren't worth uprooting their families for, they said.

IAMAW's regional representative Tony Didoshak said he isn't ready to write off hope of resurrecting the former maintenance base.

The union still hopes the Manitoba and Quebec governments will take the federal government and Air Canada to court and force Air Canada to reopen the bases here and in several other Canadian cities.

Air Canada owned and operated the facilities until 2007, when it spun off its technical-services division into Aveos Fleet Performance Inc.

Didoshak said federal legislation passed in 1988 -- the Air Canada Public Participation Act -- required Air Canada to maintain heavy maintenance/overhaul bases in Winnipeg, Toronto, and Montreal, and now that Aveos is no longer in business, it's in contravention of the act.

Air Canada denies that, saying it still performs overnight line maintenance work in the three cities. The federal government has refused to intervene, saying it's a private business matter.

Didoshak said he met recently with Manitoba Training and Trade Minister Peter Bjornson and was told discussions are ongoing with the Quebec government about what, if any, joint action might be taken. Bjornson could not be reached for comment.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 2, 2012 B3

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