‘It’s about stability’: Unifor union president supports Air Canada’s bid for Transat

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By Julien Arsenault – The Canadian Press – 17 July 2019

An Air Transat plane is seen as an Air Canada plane lands at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Montreal on Thursday, May 16, 2019.
An Air Transat plane is seen as an Air Canada plane lands at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Montreal on Thursday, May 16, 2019.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The largest private-sector union in the country says Air Canada is employees’ best option when it comes to the purchase of Quebec tour operator Transat A.T.

Unifor president Jerry Dias argued in an open letter Wednesday that while takeovers can work against employees’ best interest, his union is backing the option that offers the most stability and job security.

WATCH: Air Canada in exclusive talks to takeover Air Transat

Last month Transat’s board of directors approved a takeover offer by Air Canada over other bidders, though the $520-million deal faces legal and regulatory scrutiny along with resistance from major Transat shareholders.

The announcement came three days after Ottawa greenlighted Onex Corp.’s proposed $3.5-billion acquisition of WestJet Airlines Ltd. on June 24.

READ MORE: Federal transport minister approves sale of WestJet to Onex at price reduced by 737 Max issues

Dias said in a phone interview Wednesday that hedge funds have little stake in protecting companies in the long-term and frequently wind up selling off profitable parts before abandoning ship.

“They bust up the company, they sell off the assets,” he said. “At least a company like Air Canada has a long history, and they’re not going anywhere.”

“For me it’s about stability. It’s about a common-sense business model that keeps people employed instead of an industry that’s based on making a quick buck,” Dias said.

Unifor represents more than 4,000 sales and customer service agents at Air Canada, but no employees at Transat, where about half of the 5,000 workers are unionized.

READ MORE: Air Canada to buy Transat for $520 million

Other unions representing machinists, flight attendants and pilots on both sides of the pending purchase say it is still too early to weigh in.

The two companies say the deal will likely close early next year. It must pass the scrutiny of the Competition Bureau and win over major Transat shareholders.

Letko, Brosseau and Associates, the Montreal-based travel company’s largest stakeholder at just under 20 per cent, has stated its opposition to the $13-per-share purchase price.

The Quebec Federation of Labour Solidarity Fund and the Caisse, which hold 11.56 per cent and 5.83 per cent, respectively, have not yet made their opinions public.

© 2019 The Canadian Press