CF-18 and CC-150 Polaris Replacement – Machinists Union demands guarantees from federal parties

CF-18 and CC-150 Polaris Replacement - Machinists Union demands guarantees from federal parties

Montreal – The IAMAW Machinists Union is reminding federal parties of the importance of replacing the Royal Canadian Air Force’s CF-18 and CC-150 Polaris aircraft in a way that generates benefits for Canada and contributes to the recovery of the aerospace sector. The impact of the pandemic was swift and crushing, and while a recovery is underway, key Canadian industries still need government support.

“Since the next federal government will have to finalize both contracts, we want to hear the party leaders’ plan” said IAMAW Canadian General Vice President David Chartrand. According to Department of National Defence figures, the value of the two contracts is estimated at about $24 billion: $19 billion to replace the CF-18s and $5 billion to replace the CC-150 Polaris. At that price, it’s clear to us that we should have guarantees of economic benefits and commitments to protect and create quality jobs in Canada.”

Regarding the CF-18 replacement contract, the government plans to purchase 88 new aircraft. The next Canadian government is expected to announce in 2022 whether it will buy Lockheed Martin’s F-35, Boeing’s Super Hornet or Sweden’s Saab Gripen. Canada is one of nine countries that have chosen to fund part of the costs of research and development of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter, in return for the opportunity to purchase it at a lower cost. Since 1997, Canada has invested C$754 million in research and development of the F-35.

“What troubles us about Canada’s participation in the development of the F-35 program is that no solid guarantees have been negotiated, which is concerning from the perspective of the Canadian aerospace industry and workers in that sub-sector” David Chartrand points out. Canada is putting money into the project in the hope that it will get a return and pay less if it is purchased. Regardless of who gets the contract, the next federal government must at least ensure that it generates economic benefits and that the new aircraft meets Canada’s needs.”

“At L3-Harris in Mirabel, we have men and women who work miracles to keep the CF-18s flying. While these aircraft were scheduled to reach the end of their service life in 2003, many of them will have to be kept in service until at least 2030. Without the knowledge and ingenuity of this group of workers, we would be in trouble. The least the Canadian government can do is protect these jobs and this unrivaled expertise. Unfortunately, Ottawa has not made any commitment as to where the next aircraft will be maintained. David Chartrand reminds the federal government that, “maintenance of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CF-18 fleet has been performed in Quebec for nearly 40 years; this is more than tradition, it’s expertise of workers that’s unparalleled in the world.”

As for the CF-18 replacement, I am curious to hear what the party leaders have to say,” said IAMAW Canadian General Vice President. The Prime Minister can demonstrate his commitment to the aerospace industry by using only aircraft designed and built by Canadians for his travel needs. Mr.Trudeau already does it for his shorter distance travel with the Bombardier Challenger, he could do it with the Airbus A220 for his long-distance travels,” said David Chartrand.

The five Polaris CC-150s are maintained by workers at the L3-Harris facility in Trenton. They are used to transport cargo, military personnel and the Prime Minister. Two aircraft are also equipped for air-to-air refueling.

Airbus is the only supplier to have qualified for the CC-150 replacement with the A330 MRTT, and Ottawa hopes to have the contract signed before spring 2024.  The manufacturer has approximately 3,800 employees across Canada, with facilities or offices in Ottawa, Mirabel, Quebec, and Fort Erie, Ontario.

Finally, to strengthen our Canadian aerospace ecosystem and companies like Magellan Aerospace in Ontario, Avcorp in British Columbia, Stelia Composite in Nova Scotia, Peraton Canada in Alberta, Héroux Devtek and CAE in Quebec, Canada must ensure industrial and technological spin-offs when awarding government contracts.

The IAMAW is the largest aerospace union in the world with more than 184,000 members in 1,000 collective agreements. Active in the Canadian aerospace industry since 1940, we find members of the Machinists at Bombardier, Airbus, Stelia, Héroux-Devtek, Safran Landing, L3-Harris, AJ-Walter, Magellan, Avcorp, Daher, Tekalia, Air Canada and Air Transat.