CAW President Calls Re-introduction of Former AC Restructuring Leader Troubling

April 1, 2009, 8:36 AM EST

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CAW President Ken Lewenza is calling the appointment of former chief restructuring officer Calin Rovinescu as Air Canada CEO a disturbing choice for the country's national air carrier as it struggles to rebuild.

"It is hard to understand  that Air Canada would bring back someone who headed up the last restructuring attempt, when it is very clear those efforts not only failed, but also helped create the financial turmoil currently plaguing the company," said Lewenza.

"Today Air Canada is weakened as a result of selling off profitable sections of the company and leaving the core business so vulnerable.  To suggest that Rovinescu and others deserve a second chance at 'fixing' Air Canada is troubling."

Of particular concern to CAW members is the Air Canada pension plan, which currently faces a major funding shortfall, said CAW Local 2002 President Leslie Dias. "Our members have contributed tens of thousands of dollars into their pension plans, which Air Canada was charged with looking after," said Dias. "Not only is it doing a poor job, but Air Canada has repeatedly threatened to cut pensions." 

Slashing the pension plan was also a major demand Rovinescu made during his last tenure, said Dias. "CAW members were not willing to forfeit their retirement income then, nor will we be when we get back to the negotiating table over the next few months."

Since the restructuring of 2003-4, Air Canada employees have had to work harder, longer hours with fewer staff, yet have seen those who led the restructuring program leave Air Canada millions of dollars richer. As part of the 2003-4 restructuring more than 1600 CAW members lost their jobs, workers took pay cuts, lost vacation time, sick days and other forms of compensation.  

Meanwhile, since 2004 Air Canada parent company ACE Aviation Holdings shareholders have received $2 billion, generated from the sale of Air Canada group companies to outside buyers. ACE Chair, President and CEO Robert Milton also received $42 million in compensation in 2007.

The CAW represents more than 5,000 Air Canada workers across the country in customer service and sales.

Quick points on Calin Rovinescu's history with Air Canada:

- Participated in Air Canada's 2004 CCAA restructuring and the preparation of the spinoffs of Aeroplan and Air Canada maintenance;
- Successful defense of Air Canada from the hostile takeover by Onex in 1999;
- Involved in the privatization and initial public offering (IPO) of Air Canada in 1989, including writing the legislation for the first broad sale of a Crown corporation;
-Worked on Air Canada's original privatization in 1986 and attempted merger between Air Canada and Canadian Airlines in the 1990s, prior to the 2000 merger; 
-Assisted in the selling of Aeroplan.

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