THUNDER BAY – With more than 500 workers at Thunder Bay's Bombardier plant waiting to know if they will be among the laid-off people in November, the company's executives say they remain engaged in the local operation and will continue to work to provide a vision an optimistic future.
It was announced Wednesday that 550 workers out of more than 1,100 at the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay will be notified of layoffs on Thursday. Layoffs will take effect the first week of November.
"I do not think it's a surprise," said Keith Monty, who has been working in the factory's warehouse for eight years. "There was a lot of discussion in the workshops. We knew that there would be layoffs related to the current situation. "
Two major contracts with Metrolinx and the Toronto Transit Commission are expected to be completed by the end of 2019. The company and Unifor said earlier this year that if no additional contracts were signed, there would be bids. walk.
Dominic Pasqualino, president of Unifor Local 1075, said all members knew that the contracts would end, but that does not make it easy to announce layoffs.
"They are concerned about making their mortgage payments and being able to take their kids to hockey," he said.
"I do not have a good answer except that we have spoken to all levels of government and we will continue to talk to them. I know Bombardier is at this plant. We have produced a lot of cars for them in the past and I think it's a source of revenue for Bombardier. The quality is good, the production rate is good and it is important for the government to react to that. "
For more than six months, Bombardier has been talking with all levels of government for contracts. The federal government urged the province to protect jobs in Thunder Bay, while last month it had sent a mandate letter to Metrolinx so that it is ordering the construction of 36 new two-tier cars at the same time. ;factory.
After the announcement of the 550 layoffs, the federal and provincial governments singled out each other. However, the blame does not help the situation in Thunder Bay and Pasqualino said the workers needed contracts signed earlier, because even with 500 workers leaving the shop in November, the situation would worsen.
"I believe the number can even go higher than that," Pasqualino said. "We plan to have very little staff in January unless we sign some contracts today."
Cyclical nature of the industry
Bombardier Americas COO David Van Der Wee was back in Thunder Bay Wednesday for a public meeting where he thanked the employees for all their hard work and explained what the company was doing to ensure a positive future for the local population. surgery.
"I am extremely proud of what this team has done," he said. "That's what makes this kind of discussion much more difficult. I feel what it means to them, because I see a person in the store and behind that person, there may be a family, a community involved here, that's what makes it more difficult. But I think that Thunder Bay, as a factory, did everything in its power to prove that it was an absolutely valuable proposition for the people of Ontario. "
Van Der Wee added that it was a cyclical industry and that those who have been working at the factory for many years understand that layoffs entail this type of work.
"Our workers, some of them are used to it," he said. "Projects come, projects go. The reason we have a little more stress this time around is that both projects end at exactly the same time. "
Pasqualino, who has been working at the factory for more than 30 years, said he had seen his workforce go down to 250 people, but never below 700 in the last eight years.
But much has changed in the last 30 years, including the US market and content regulations that limit the level of content shipped south of the border.
Unlike past layoffs, however, this time there is no work going on, at least not yet, and that's what Van Der Wee said he wants to work to change.
"What's different today is in the past, part of this pipeline, even if it was not the case today or tomorrow, we could see it and it was in the six, eight or the next ten months, "he said. "We do not see him today. We need to create this visibility and create this visibility will give our employees what they've had in the past. "
Even if new contracts are signed, it can take anywhere from 14 to 18 months for a factory to resume production once the parts are ordered and the supply chain is restored.
Van Der Wee said Bombardier will continue to work with all levels of government and build on positive responses over the past six months.
"Everyone understands the situation and everyone is ready to help," he said. "We can see some of this overt positive response, which is an offer for 36 out of two levels."
The contract for these 36 two-level cars has not yet been signed, but Van Der Wee said he was confident that they will be able to confirm this contact shortly.
But that will not be enough to ensure the long-term future of the plant and everyone hopes that something much more substantial will be available soon.
"We need all levels of government to talk to each other and help us do our best to keep this plant running as fast as we currently do," Pasqualino said. "We build LRV cars once every three days and we build two-level trains with one car every other day. I think it's a record amount of rate and we are looking to continue. "
"We've all worked so hard to get where we are," said Monty. "We have an impressive production line. It is a little disappointing that we are doing so well and we will now move and move. "