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Class action against Air Canada | Ten years after the bankruptcy of Aveos, a balm for former employees

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Like many of his former colleagues from Aveos, Gilles Talbot would be retired if the aircraft maintenance specialist had not gone bankrupt in 2012. A decade after suddenly losing his livelihood, this 60-year-old is one of 2,200 ex-employees of the company who will have to be compensated by Air Canada.

“I’m euphoric,” says the 62-year-old on the phone. Sometimes I feel like laughing, and other times I feel like crying. When I broke the news to ex-colleagues, some were crying and others were screaming with joy. »

The news in question is the 154-page decision rendered Thursday by Judge Marie-Christine Hivon, of the Superior Court of Quebec. The magistrate agrees almost all the way to the former employees of Aveos in the context of the class action filed by them against the largest air carrier in the country.

Impossible for the moment to know how much money will have to be paid by Air Canada since the process to calculate the sums will be long and complex. According to the plaintiffs, we are talking about tens of millions of dollars. The company could also appeal the decision. It is unclear whether she will turn to this option.


PHOTO PROVIDED BY GILLES TALBOT

Gilles Talbot

It’s like a balm. If this closure had not occurred, many of us would be retired. I was eligible at 57, but I will have to work for a few more years. However, the most important thing is not to have given up and to have today’s answer.

Gilles Talbot, hired at Aveos in 1994

A broken commitment

A former Air Canada subsidiary that became independent in 2011, Aveos was responsible for maintaining the carrier’s aircraft – which accounted for 90% of its revenue – at its centers in Montreal, Winnipeg and Mississauga. Overnight, the maintenance specialist went out of business in the spring of 2012, when its main client turned to other suppliers.

In the wake of the disappearance of Aveos, Air Canada had subsequently entrusted the maintenance of its aircraft to foreign subcontractors. By doing so, she was breaking federal law (Air Canada Public Participation Act) which required it to maintain maintenance centers in Montreal, Winnipeg and Mississauga.

” [L’entreprise] made it clear within days of Aveos ceasing operations that it had no intention of buying out Aveos or rehiring employees directly in order to get the centers back in service, Judge Hivon wrote. Air Canada has not taken reasonable steps to comply with the law. »

In its calls for proposals, the carrier has never included obligations to maintain maintenance activities in Canada, adds the magistrate. It also points out that the company has rather left to its potential suppliers the “leisure to choose the place of execution of the maintenance work”.

Jean Poirier did not work at Aveos, but the former union representative acted as a spokesperson for former employees for years. On the phone, he had difficulty containing his emotion.

“It’s 2200 families who will finally be rewarded, he says. It’s one of the best days for me. It’s incredible. It wasn’t just a business closure. It was an injustice. »

When Quebec took legal action against Air Canada after the Aveos breach – proceedings that were dropped in 2016 – the courts also concluded that the company was in violation of federal law.

After finding himself unemployed 10 years ago, Mario Longo ended up finding work elsewhere in the industry. However, there was always bitterness.

“I feel at least 20 kilos lighter,” he exclaims. I find it incredible that it took so long to fight. At least we won with money to get. We hope it won’t take too long. »

A damper

The victory is not total for the plaintiffs. Judge Hivon finds that Air Canada did not deliberately cause the collapse of Aveos, as alleged in the class action. The company will therefore not have to pay punitive damages, which would have considerably increased the bill.

“Air Canada has always acted in good faith in this case, which the court recognized while confirming that Air Canada had not caused the closure of Aveos,” said the company, in a statement sent by email.

The airline has not commented on the judge’s findings surrounding non-compliance with the law. The wording of the federal regulations had been changed by the Trudeau government in June 2016 to provide Air Canada with more maintenance flexibility.

This did not completely relieve the carrier for the period between the closure of Aveos and the legislative change, according to Judge Hivon. Damages may be calculated for the period from April 2013 to June 2016.

However, the case is not over.

A long process will begin since Air Canada will have to offer monetary compensation, in particular for loss of income and pension benefits. There will also be a non-monetary component, for the stress, anxiety and other harm resulting from the closure of Aveos. Spouses of employees who have died since 2012 will also be eligible for compensation.

These amounts will have to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Air Canada will have to bear the costs of this process.

The Aveos saga in a few dates

  • July 2011: Subsidiary of the Air Canada company, Aveos becomes independent.
  • March 18, 2012: Aveos closes its centers in Montreal, Winnipeg and Mississauga.
  • February 4, 2013: The Superior Court finds that Air Canada is in violation of federal law.
  • November 3, 2015: The air carrier’s appeal is dismissed by the Court of Appeal.
  • December 30, 2015: Air Canada turns to the Supreme Court of Canada.
  • February 18, 2016: Air Canada orders Bombardier C Series. It undertakes to establish a maintenance center in Quebec. The Quebec government abandons its legal action.
  • June 22, 2016: Ottawa modifies the federal law governing Air Canada.
  • May 15, 2018: The Superior Court agrees to hear the class action of former Aveos employees.

Learn more

  • 1800 workers
    Number of Aveos employees in Montreal at the time of its closure

    SOURCE: THE PRESS



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