President's Message – August 2007

DID YOU KNOW . . . . .  ?

Since Air Canada emerged from CCAA protection in October 2004, we have been systematically dismantled as an airline.   Different parts of what used to be integral to our operations have been sold and “spun off” to reward investors, often with dire consequences for   affected employees. 

The most recent example is the June 22, 2007 sale of 70 per cent of Air Canada Technical Services (ACTS) to private equity investors, led by New York-based Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.   ACTS handles our scheduled heavy aircraft maintenance

Prior to this sale, some 870 IAMAW heavy aircraft maintenance mechanics received permanent and temporary layoff notices when Delta Airlines terminated its 5-year contract with Air Canada three years early, to transfer this maintenance work to a lower cost facility in Hong Kong.  According to the IAMAW, Air Canada didn’t even try to replace this work for our Vancouver heavy aircraft maintenance facility.

Meanwhile, Air Canada had already purchased a majority controlling interest in TACA Aeroman, a heavy aircraft maintenance operation in El Salvador.  A consultant acting on behalf of ACTS is now trying to get Canadian community colleges to provide seed money to fund the establishment of a training facility in El Salvador to steal even more Canadian heavy aircraft maintenance jobs.

Air Canada’s corporate restructuring and outsourcing overseas threatens the future of our IAMAW heavy aircraft maintenance workers.

Who’s next?   Baggage handlers?  Ground Agents?

Why does this even matter?  Should we even be worried about the effects of such corporate re-structuring on us?

Firstly, proper and effective government oversight of such overseas heavy aircraft maintenance facilities has always been difficult.  Our safety onboard our aircraft is now at the mercy of narrow profit motives, trying to take advantage of low wages, and the absence of effective government regulations overseas.

Air Canada is also becoming more and more of a “virtual” airline, a brand name only, with fewer and fewer of its own direct employees.  More work is being “contracted out” to third parties with resulting lower standards of service and quality.

Finally, despite a corporate decision last October that ACE was well enough to give up to $2 billion in special rewards to investors, Air Canada announced another round of its own corporate belt-tightening.  Nothing seems to be immune from this cost-cutting exercise, including a disturbing lack of corporate priority to address the high level of MEL item deferrals on our aircraft as a result of tight turnaround times and lack of spare parts.

In the face of such corporate belt-tightening, we can never forget why we’re on our aircraft; to protect the safety of our passengers, now merely known as “customers”.  We must always be vigilant in our safety duties and never be discouraged or complacent about following our required procedures.  One of these procedures requires the “writing up” of broken equipment, no matter how many times we’ve already done so or reported it.

It is only through adherence to our established procedures that we can force this airline to devote greater resources and attention to correcting repeatedly deferred MEL items.

In unity,

 

Lesley Swann

President, Air Canada Component of CUPE