After Montreal protest, Bombardier changes compensation for executives

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CEO Bombardier Inc. Alain Bellemare speaks during a ceremony to announce Bombardier's delivery of the first CS300 aircraft to Air Baltic Corporation AS in Mirabel

CEO Bombardier Inc. Alain Bellemare speaks during a ceremony to announce Bombardier's delivery of the first CS300 aircraft to Air Baltic Corporation AS (airBaltic) in Mirabel, Quebec, Canada November 28, 2016. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

Bombardier's top executives will not get their full 2016 compensation for at least three years.

Late Sunday night, Alain Bellemare, Bombardier's chief executive officer, announced in a news release that he had asked the company's board of directors to have 50 per cent of the total planned 2016 compensation for six executives deferred until 2020.

If Bombardier fails to meet certain performance goals by then, the 2016 compensation will not be paid out at all.

The announcement came just hours after approximately 200 people chanted, in French, "shame to Bombardier!" in front of the company's offices on René-Lévesque Boulevard in Montreal.

The event was organized on Facebook and decried what it called the Liberal provincial government's "austerity measures towards Quebec social programs, while it invests $1 billion US in Bombardier."

Bombardier has been under fire since it became known last week that compensation to chairman Pierre Beaudoin and five senior executives soared to more than $32 million last year, up from $21 million in 2015.

Beaudoin announced late Friday that he had asked the board to scale his pay back to 2015 levels.

On Sunday night, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said he was "satisfied" by the decision to defer compensation until 2020 in a tweet.

However, MNA Alain Therrien, the Parti Québécois economy critic, said the move obscured the issue and added "insult to injury."

"[Bombardier] was already expected to not give the full salaries immediately," Therrien wrote in a tweet, referring to the statement put out on Saturday by Bombardier that defended how its executives are paid. 

That statement said half of the $32 million in compensation would depend on Bombardier's performance over the next three years. 

'It's our taxes, it's our money'

Étienne Diotte, the co-organizer of Sunday's protest, said Bombardier receiving public funds while its top executives get increases in compensation is "ridiculous."

He thinks the government should be getting more involved in how Bombardier is run.

"When you give $1 billion to someone, you can ask things of them. You don't have to let them just do what they want," Diotte told CBC News.

Jessica Lacombe, a teacher, carried a sign that read "I'm still waiting for my invitation to Bombardier's shareholders' meeting." 

She said the company's actions are especially hard to take after years of provincial government austerity that have included cutbacks to health and education.

"If it's private money, they can do what they want, but now it's public money," she said. "It's our taxes, it's our money."

Quebec's minister of Canadian relations Jean-Marc Fournier attended the protest because he said it was important for the government to listen to citizens.

"Quebecers were very proud to support Bombardier and we want that support to be maintained," Fournier said.

He said he hoped the company would listen to the people, but stopped short of saying whether the government had any plans to lay down rules for Bombardier's management in the future.

The Parti Québécois however has spoken out on Bombardier governance, saying it intends to present a motion in Quebec's legislature this week calling on all of Bombardier's executives to renounce their 2016 compensation increase.

Unions say compensation too high, disrespectful

Early on Sunday, unions representing workers at Bombardier criticised the company's actions.

Renaud Gagne of Unifor says Beaudoin's demand to scale back his compensation doesn't mean much because executive pay in 2015 was already too high.

David Chartrand of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers says Beaudoin's move is a step in the right direction, but notes the pay and bonus packages could be seen as disrespectful to workers, since Bombardier is eliminating more than 14,000 jobs around the world by the end of next year.