Air Canada reaches Manitoba compromise

Air Canada’s announcement of a new MRO centre of excellence in Winnipeg brings an end to nearly four years of potential legal action resulting from the closure of Aveos in 2012 after the airline pulled its contracts from the firm.

The formation of Western Canada Centre of Excellence, boosting the local economy through 150 new maintenance jobs by 2017, will also see Air Canada bring three of its suppliers to set up in the region – Hope Aero Propeller & Components, Airbase Services and Cargojet Airways. Air Canada is also encouraging Manitoba-based suppliers to bid for work, with the carrier specifically highlighting component opportunities on future aircraft entering its fleet.

The fact that the new facility looks to have brought an end to any possible legal proceedings between the airline and Manitoba is also sure to have garnered a sigh of relief from Air Canada. It follows a similar scenario recently, when the Quebec state government – which originally led the lawsuit against Air Canada – withdrew its action after the airline signed a letter of intent for 75 CS300 aircraft with Montreal-headquartered Bombardier.

One of the terms of that deal was Air Canada agreeing to conduct heavy maintenance work on aircraft in Quebec for a minimum of 20 years from 2019, with other MRO activities continuing in other Canadian provinces along with locations in the South East Asia and the Middle East.

Yet while Monday’s compromise with Manitoba has been welcomed by many, some of the affected parties from the still recent Aveos fallout have been less enthusiastic about the deal.

Mike Maskell, a former Aveos aircraft maintenance engineer, told Winnipeg radio station CJOB of his shock that Manitoba had entered into a deal that he speculated could see “low paying jobs come into Winnipeg in place of what had been here.”

There is also the caveat of the Quebec Federation of Labour, which last Friday (March 11), filed a request seeking a permanent injunction which if successful, would effectively force Air Canada to conduct all heavy maintenance operations in the country.

Perhaps the cynicism of Mr Maskell is understandable given he was one of up to 2600 staff that lost jobs at sites in Winnipeg, Montreal and Ontario, many of which were outsourced to subsidiary Aeroman, which operates in the low-cost labour market of El Salvador.

But given the recent travails of Canadian aviation, perhaps best highlighted by the problems of the CSeries, new MRO jobs like the ones being created in Winnipeg will always be welcome.

And while not at the same levels of the Aveos days, it’ll nevertheless provide a much needed shot in the arm in the near-term.

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