Thunder Bay

Bombardier layoffs in Thunder Bay to start at end of the week

As many as 200 employees at Thunder Bay’s Bombardier plant will be out of work at the end of the week.
Bombardier has confirmed it will lay off as many as 200 workers at its Thunder Bay plant on Friday. (CBC)

As many as 200 employees at Thunder Bay's Bombardier plant will be out of work at the end of the week.

The company announced the looming layoff of about 550 employees - close to half of its workforce - nearly four months ago, with the mass transit vehicle manufacturing plant expected to complete its remaining two major contracts with the Toronto Transit Commission and Metrolinx near at the end of 2019 and early 2020 respectively.

The first wave of layoffs, which is expected to be the largest, will take effect on Friday.

Unifor Local 1075 president Dominic Pasqualino, who represents a significant amount of the plant's workforce, said knowing the layoffs were coming doesn't make it any easier.

"It's really devastating. I think we always knew that these layoffs were occurring but once you have that paper in your hand saying you're getting laid off and you're going to be gone on Friday, it makes that cold weather that much more bitter," he said.

Dave Black, Bombardier's site general manager, said the nature of the plant's work is cyclical. In the past, there have been as many as 1,400 people working at the facility but at other times the workforce has dropped to about 400.

"What's going on this time is very unique," Black said. "That's why our layoffs are a little bit more excessive than normal, because we have two contracts that are sort of winding down at the same time, which doesn't normally happen."

Black said this will be the largest single wave of layoffs, with others following over the coming weeks. The previously announced 550 total could be lessened by retirements, workers relocating to other sites and additional work, he added. 

There are about 12 cars remaining on the 204-vehicle Toronto Transit Commission streetcar order, which was contracted to be finished by the end of the year. For the Metrolinx bilevel vehicle order, Black said the line was slowed down to extend work into next year. The provincial government has since announced an order for an additional 36 Metrolinx cars, which Black said should carry the plant through most of 2020.

Pasqualino said some employees have already quit in anticipation of losing their jobs. Opportunities in mining and transmission line construction could mean some workers might never return, even if they are offered their jobs back.

"At that point we might lose these people forever, which really does hurt our plant," Pasqualino said.

But Pasqualino warned the future viability of the plant could be dire if there aren't more contracts on the way.

"I think it's really important that government go out and give us some work," he said. "If we don't get some more work orders soon, the remaining people will be laid off another year from now."

Black said the company continues to work with both the provincial and federal governments, as well as the City of Toronto, to try to secure further work.