Saturday, January 28, 2012

Recruited British workers laid off

Defence Minister Peter MacKay, right, chats with David Gossen, president of IMP Aerospace at an event to mark a milestone in a project to extend the service life of the CP 140 Aurora aircraft at IMP Aerospace in Enfield, N.S. on Friday, Dec. 9, 2011. (ANDREW VAUGHAN / CP)

An avionics technician laid off by IMP Aerospace this week says he and other British workers lured to Nova Scotia were compelled to spend their own money to earn residency status here.

“British families sold houses, gave up lives in England to be brought over here,” Andrew McMillan of Fall River said Saturday.

“I’ve been here two and a half years now and now I’ve got no job, spent all of that money ..... to get permanent residency. That’s a very drawn out procedure and it costs thousands and thousands of dollars,” Andrew McMillan said Saturday.

He said it was the same for “all of the families.”

“IMP had a recruiting drive back in England in 2008 and they brought over a lot of Brits on work permits. Then they pretty much insisted, once the work permits were close to expiring, that we all get our residency, at a cost of anything up to $5,000 per family. So we’ve all done that and we’ve spent all this money, now to be laid off.”

IMP Aerospace president David Gossen called the layoffs “short term” when they were announced on Friday. But McMillan said workers are hearing differently. He said Kevin Lemke, IMP’s senior director fixed wing production, told “40 or 50” unionized workers that more bad news is on the way.

“We got told (Friday) that it wasn’t short term and that there’s likely to be more layoffs in March, up to another 20 people,” McMillan said. “And yet Dave Gossen, ..... , in your paper, is quoted as saying these are short term and they’ll be back to work real soon.”

But Lemke, reached at home on Saturday, denied telling workers there’ll be more layoffs.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “That is the exact opposite of what I said.”

IMP, which employs more than 1,500 people, is in the middle of a contract with the military worth $1.5 billion to refurbish Aurora aircraft. McMillan said the pace of work on that contract has slowed because of concerns about work quality on one of the planes.

“The air force, the DND, have slowed down input to IMP because of some work issues,” he said. “There’s problems with that aircraft and DND aren’t happy with that. That’s why things have slowed down. They won’t release another aeroplane until this one is resolved and that’s why a lot of people have been laid off. There’s nothing for them to do because DND have slowed down the program.”

Tom Galley, IMP’s vice-president of production, said the Canadian military is the company’s biggest and best customer, and the most vocal. Any concerns DND has about work are just the normal “to-ing and fro-ing” of contracts, Galley said.

“We don’t have any big issues with them. Actually, they’re quite happy with our work and they’re continuing to put aircraft into the plant. We have a very close working relationship with them and there are times when they want to bring up areas where they feel there could be some improvements. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. It’s just part of being in a performance-based contract.”

He said the workload at the plant is quite strong.

“We are of course going through a rebalancing of some of the labour force,” Galley said.
While it was unfortunate that the seven avionics techs had to be laid off, he said the company has “been in the process of hiring 20 mechanics over the past couple of months.”

“We expect our workforce to continue to grow over the next number of months as the work comes to fruition that we’re constantly trying to bring into the company.”

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