Open letter from David Chartrand, Quebec coordinator of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW)

Open letter from David Chartrand, Quebec coordinator of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW)

Bombardier must survive despite the mistakes of its leaders

Since Bombardier announced the abolition of 5 000 jobs, including 2 500 in Quebec, a strong anti-Bombardier sentiment is rapidly spreading across the province. The absence of Bombardier’s CEO, Alain Bellemare, at the emergency summit convened by the Minister of Economy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, and his statements to investors gathered in Bay Street, raised the anger of many Quebeckers towards The company and its CEO.

Faced with the challenges currently facing Bombardier, more and more Quebeckers are saying, “We can no longer stand to see these bandits with ties stealing from us and giving themselves big wages, close the shop and good riddance.” The most unfortunate thing about this is that this frustration with Bombardier puts the jobs of 15 000 workers at risk. Because in reality it is they and their families who will suffer, they are Bombardier not Alain Bellemare. In the end, if our anger ends up closing Bombardier, the workers will pay the price and they don’t deserve that, in fact nobody deserves that.

The legacy that Bombardier has in his hands, dates back to 1928, when Canadian Vickers began manufacturing aircraft. Since then, we have had to deal with several bosses who were more attentive to the needs of the investors than those of the employees and those of Quebec. We have always succeeded in advancing our conditions and maintaining the heart of the company’s activities here. During my 28 years with Bombardier, first as an assembler and then as a union representative, six CEOs succeeded. Like me, many of my colleagues survived and were able to keep their families alive by working in aerospace. If it is so, it is because aerospace is part of us, it is part of our history. What we have done in this area we do not owe it to a private company or a CEO. As long as we are willing to invest in it, we will be able to live in aerospace in Quebec and remain recognized globally in the field for our creativity, our genius and our know-how.

Even if we are right to be angry with Bombardier’s senior management, we should not throw the aerospace baby with the bathwater. Even if Bombardier plunges thousands of Quebecers into uncertainty with its ways of doing things and his behaviour, we must keep a cool head and not be dominated by our anger. We must devote our energies to finding solutions to avoid this kind of situation, rather than wishing the death of one of our industrial flagships. These solutions go through a strong and intelligent involvement of our governments to promote and protect the interests of Quebec and its aerospace workers.

Quebec must encourage companies to be responsible, aerospace is a pillar of our economy and a driving force of technological innovation. It has had a significant contribution to the development of Quebec for about a century. Bombardier has been composing the core of this industry since 1986 and many companies gravitate around the builder to win contracts. It is therefore wise to intervene for its survival and development, but not just in any way. We have to do it in respect of the interests of Quebec, its citizens, its economy. That is why we must systematically include commitments and a right of scrutiny when investing in a company. For example, we need to get commitments on the level of employment, the level of activities, the development of new programs and the redistribution of the benefits in Quebec society. So we would avoid situations like the one we know right now. Let’s act quickly.

David Chartrand
Coordonnateur Québécois
Quebec Coordinator