Air Canada signs deals for centre of excellence
Originally published by Murray McNeill for the Winnipeg Free Press on July 21st 2016
Air Canada has followed through on its promise to help establish Winnipeg as a major hub for aircraft-maintenance work.
The Montreal-based air carrier announced Thursday it has signed agreements with three of its key suppliers to help them create a Western Canada centre of excellence for aircraft maintenance work in Manitoba.
It said the three companies are expected to commence operations here in 2017.
“We are already one of the province’s largest employers, with more than 725 jobs, and we believe we can assist in further strengthening the industry in Manitoba in co-operation with the provincial government by leveraging our relationships with valued suppliers and business partners,” Kevin Howlett, Air Canada’s senior vice-president for regional markets and government relations, said in a written statement.
The three suppliers are: Hope Aero Propeller & Components Inc., which specializes in propellers, wheels, brakes and batteries; Airbase Services Inc., which specializes in aircraft interior equipment repair and maintenance; and Hamilton-based Cargojet Airways Ltd., which will establish its own repair and maintenance activities here.
The Free Press reported earlier this month Air Canada and the two senior levels of government were close to finalizing a deal that would see Cargojet lease one of Air Canada’s two remaining maintenance hangars in Winnipeg and hire workers to service its planes. The initial agreement called for 150 new jobs to be created, although a source said the parties were close to expanding that by a further 250 positions.
As part of the deal, the Manitoba government would invest money to upgrade the hangars, the source added.
Air Canada announced last February it would help support the creation of new centres of excellence for aircraft maintenance in Winnipeg and Montreal. In exchange, it wanted Manitoba and Quebec to drop a lawsuit launched after Air Canada’s subsidiary — Aveos Fleet Performance — went bankrupt in 2012 and the airline subsequently shipped its heavy-maintenance work outside Canada. That move wiped out about 400 jobs in Winnipeg.
The provinces had maintained the airline had violated the federal Air Canada Public Participation Act, which required that its heavy-maintenance work be done in Winnipeg, Montreal and Mississauga, Ont. Before proceeding with the establishment of the new centres of excellence, Air Canada insisted the law be changed to give it flexibility in determining what kind of maintenance jobs it keeps in Winnipeg and Montreal. The revised law took effect June 22.
Heavy maintenance involves taking a plane out of service for a period of months for in-depth maintenance and repair work. Air Canada meets the requirements of the new legislation by maintaining 28 line-maintenance workers in Winnipeg. Those workers do system checks and basic fixes while planes are parked at the gate.
Spokesmen for Air Canada and for Manitoba Aerospace Inc., which represents the local aerospace industry, could not be reached Thursday for comment.
Cliff Cullen, Manitoba’s minister for growth, enterprise and trade, said in a written statement the provincial government is pleased it was able to work out a deal with Air Canada and the federal government that will provide long-term support for the province’s aerospace industry.
“Manitoba is home to a world-class aerospace industry, the largest in Western Canada with approximately 5,400 employed directly and many more indirectly in related sectors within Manitoba’s economy,” Cullen said. “It is both in our and the national interest to stick up for Manitoba’s strong aerospace sector, and we are pleased that Air Canada is living up their commitments.”