Bombardier Inc.'s unionized workers at a rail equipment plant in La Pocatiere, Que., launched a strike Thursday, a couple of days after beginning negotiations with the help of a conciliator.

The union says 330 members of the Confederation of National Trade Unions began the plant's first strike in more than 30 years over concerns about sub-contracting, pension plans and wages.

Nearly 96 per cent of union members gave the union a strike mandate last Saturday.

Negotiations 'far apart'

The union said Wednesday that it was prepared to negotiate through the weekend if necessary to reach a deal.

Union president Mario Levesque now says it is prepared to return to the bargaining table even though he claims the two sides are very far apart.

The last contract expired Sept. 30, 2011.

It wasn't immediately clear what impact the strike will have on several contracts, including for the Toronto and Montreal transit systems.

The plant northeast of Quebec City is also building the interiors for 706 Chicago transit cars, 100 multi-level New Jersey transit cars and 54 multi-level cars for Maryland transit.

Bombardier says La Pocatiere's workforce stands at about 585, including 370 unionized workers.

The Montreal-based railway and airplane manufacturer also faces a strike of Learjet employees in Wichita, Kan.