Air Canada Jazz cutting 200 London-based maintenance jobs
London Community News
By Paul Everest/London Community News/Twitter: @PaulEverest1
Air Canada Jazz is eliminating 200 heavy maintenance jobs in London.
The airline’s parent company, Chorus Aviation Inc., announced Thursday (July 12) it was informing workers at its London heavy maintenance facility the job cuts will take effect in the summer of 2013.
The reason for the cuts, said Debra Williams, a spokeswoman for the airline, is due to the company retiring nine older 50-seat CRJ 100 aircraft and purchasing six new Bombardier Q400 NextGen planes.
“The rejuvenation of the fleet lessens the demand for heavy maintenance work and that’s what we do here in London,” she said.
The airline has two heavy maintenance bases in Canada, one in London which has operated since the late 1980s, and one in Halifax.
Williams said while the London facility is closing, the Halifax facility will increase its maintenance operations from two to three lines.
The airline is now discussing options, including the possibility of transfers to Halifax or other facilities, with the London workers who will be affected by the cuts.
“Over the next few months we’ll work with employees to look at the options of transfer and what works best for them as we move through this process,” Williams said.
She added about 50 other Jazz employees at the London International Airport will not be affected and Jazz flights will still operate out of London.
Joe Randell, Chorus Aviation Inc.’s president and chief executive officer, said in a media release issued Monday (July 16) that financial incentives from the Nova Scotia government pushed the company to expand its operations in Halifax over London.
Nova Scotia has pledged a $12 million interest-bearing, repayable loan to Chorus as well as a $2.5 million forgivable loan based on meeting employment targets and a $2 million employee incentive to recruit and train new employees or to upgrade the skills of current employees.
The company’s expansion in Halifax will bring roughly 150 new workers to the city while increasing Jazz’s payroll in Nova Scotia to roughly $60 million a year, the media release states.
The London maintenance workers affected by the announcement are represented by the Canadian Auto Workers’ union.
Ron Smith, the union’s transportation director, said even though the opening of a third line in Halifax will mean the addition of roughly 90 jobs that London workers can be transferred to, having to leave the city or the prospect of looking for work elsewhere is not something anyone is happy about.
“I don’t think anybody would like to be in the shoes of our membership in London who have to make these decisions or will be seeking work elsewhere in 2013,” he said. “Nothing can take away the hurt and the dismay of the membership in London who will be losing the jobs in London and being forced to relocate or leave the employment of Jazz.”
Smith added those workers who choose to find new jobs will face challenges, since there is more competition in the market.
“If we look at what’s just happened in the last year with Aveos, which was doing Air Canada’s heavy maintenance, going right out of business, there are a lot of aviation maintenance engineers out there on the market looking for work. So this is completely demoralizing.”
The union has had some discussions with the airline about paid moves and retention payments for the affected London workers, but those discussions broke down in June and aren’t scheduled to resume until later this month.
Despite another large employment blow to the city following the closure of Electro-Motive Canada earlier this year when close to 500 jobs were lost, Peter White, president of the London Economic Development Corporation, said London still hosts a healthy workforce.
“At the same time, we’ve actually had a lot of increases. Year over year, employment-wise, we’ve added a significant number of new jobs and our level of workforce actually continues to grow,” he said. “It has been actually fairly positive news outside of the original EM(C) event and this announcement today. We’ve had good recoveries in manufacturing. In fact year over year, we’re actually up in manufacturing jobs.”
White said it’s disappointing that London is losing 200 jobs, but added he understands the airline had to make a business decision
“One of the aircraft they’re looking to change out of the fleet is the main aircraft that’s serviced in London, the Canada Regional Jet, so they’re going to be purchasing new Bombardier Q400 turbo-props and it was felt that those would be better serviced in Halifax.”