Montreal

Quebec government optimistic Bombardier rail jobs are safe following sale to Alstom

While the Legault government is touting Monday’s announcement as good news, the union representing Bombardier’s thousands of factory workers called on the premier to do more to ensure jobs are protected.

Caisse de dépot now has 18% stake in Alstom and says French rail giant will expand operations in Quebec

Workers at Bombardier's train manufacturing plant in La Pocatière, Que., about 100 kilometres northeast of Quebec City, learned Monday that French rail giant Alstom is now in charge. (Radio-Canada)

Now that Bombardier Inc. has sold its rail division to Alstom SA, Quebec politicians and workers alike are hoping the move will lead to more investment in the province's transport industry.

On Monday, Alstom announced it signed a memorandum of understanding with Bombardier to acquire Bombardier Transportation for between $8.4 billion and $9 billion.

The deal, if approved by European regulators, could mean up to $4.5 billion in net proceeds for Bombardier, which is carrying an estimated $9.3 billion US of debt, most of that due by 2025.

Quebec's pension fund manager, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, now has an 18 per cent stake in Alstom and says the French rail giant will strengthen its presence in Quebec.

That presence will include a Montreal-area headquarters that will oversee the company's assets in North America. There will also be a new engineering and design centre and a centre for high-tech research and development, the Caisse said.

Premier François Legault and his economy minister, Pierre Fitzgibbon, had nothing but praise for the deal on Monday.

In a tweet, Legault said Alstom will supervise 1,500 jobs already in Quebec.

No jobs are guaranteed, Fitzgibbon said, but there are growing opportunities in the North American market that he believes could lead to more business for Alstom's newly acquired Quebec manufacturing plants.

Union calls for more incentives

The federation of labour unions representing Bombardier rail workers, the CSN, said Quebec should be proactive about not just protecting existing jobs, but stimulating new ones.

In a statement, the CSN said Quebec could be doing more by developing new contracts that would catch Alstom's interest.

It calls on Legault to "speed up the process surrounding the many public transit projects currently under consideration in Quebec."

For example, the province could expand Montreal's light-rail network even further, as well as other projects, as part of the government's electric transportation strategy, the CSN said.

The union said the province must take steps to ensure the survival of the former Bombardier plant in La Pocatière, Que., 100 kilometres northeast of Quebec City, where about 400 people are employed building Bombardier trains.

Sylvain Hudon, the mayor of La Pocatière, Que., congratulated Bombardier and Alstom for reaching a deal. (Radio-Canada)

La Pocatière Mayor Sylvain Hudon told Radio-Canada he's happy about the deal and hopeful that Alstom will see the town's potential.

"If they need help sorting out any details, we'll assist with pleasure," he said.

Hudon isn't breaking out the champagne just yet: he's waiting for confirmation from Alstom that the plant's operations won't be affected by the company's sale.

with files from Radio-Canada's Louis-Gabriel Parent-Belzile and Marie-Jeanne Dubreuil

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