Thunder Bay

Bombardier striking workers vote 85% to accept new contract

It will be back to business for Bombardier Transportation and more than 900 striking workers in Thunder Bay.
Hundreds of striking workers at the Bombardier light rail plant in Thunder Bay, Ont., are expected to be back on the job soon after ratifying a new three-year collective agreement.
After a nine week strike, negotiators for Unifor and Bombardier have a deal. 5:50

It will be back to business for Bombardier Transportation and more than 900 striking workers in Thunder Bay.

A total of 85 per cent of workers who voted Friday morning cast ballots in favour of the new contract.

The Thunder Bay plant builds subway cars and streetcars for the Toronto Transit Commission, as well as cars for the GO train regional commuter train service.
CJ Hanlon, a finisher at Bombardier, says he's glad Bombardier agreed to make changes to its stance on pension plan rules. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Their union says the contract avoided "a long list of concessions" originally demanded by the Montreal-based Bombardier.

A finisher at the Bombardier plant said giving workers less was not a good thing.

"Everybody keeps saying, 'well this is the way of the world.' And I honestly believe that this is the problem. The way of the world is to give the workers less," CJ  Hanlon said.

"The big one for me, personally, is the cutoff on the last one they had tried to bring in for retiree benefits. I missed the deadline by four days. To ensure that I have benefits when I do retire is a good thing."

Among other things, Unifor says the contract maintains the plant's defined benefit pension plan for both current and future members.

Bombardier worker John Chambers said the new contract is "better than expected. The fracturing of the union membership with this defined-contribution versus defined-benefit plan. The company reneged on that. We got the key point that we were after, and so personally, I'm happy about it."

Wages at the Thunder Bay plant in northwestern Ontario will remain stable for the first year of the contract, with raises of 10 cents an hour in each of the two following years, plus cost of living adjustments.

'Hoping to make more gains'

The 900 members of Unifor Local 1075 have been on strike since July 14. They voted 80 per cent last month against a "last offer" from the company in a ballot ordered by the Ontario Ministry of Labour after an application from Bombardier.
Dominic Pasqualino, president of Unifor Local (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Hundreds of workers came out for a briefing in Thunder Bay's Community Auditorium before voting.

Unifor's leadership did not make a recommendation on the recently negotiated deal.

Unifor Local 1075 president Domenic Pasqualino said he was not surprised by the vote result. He said many workers want to get back to the job after nearly nine weeks on the picket line.

Strikers were paid $250 a week.

Pasqualino said the union was "hoping to make more gains, but I think the people understood that we've done everything we can. The bargaining committee worked hard for them. We were able to get most of the concessions off the table."

He added "there's some people [who] were upset ... and that's why we let the people make their own decision. We gave them the facts, [and] they made their decision. They're all adults, and that's good."

'An excellent result'

Pasqualino noted some workers could be recalled starting next week, but it could take up to two weeks for everyone to be recalled. He also said some strikers have found work in other parts of the country and have indicated they will not be returning to Bombardier.
Stephanie Ash, spokesperson for Bombardier. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Bombardier spokesperson Stephanie Ash said  layoff notices handed last week to members of another union at the plant (COPE) will now be cancelled.

"We want to have everyone back to work as soon as possible," she said.

"So right now, we're just looking at how we made that happen quickly, and get everyone back to work. It will likely start at the beginning of next week."

She added the company is "absolutely delighted" with the agreement, adding "we think this is an excellent result for everyone."

Ash said the deal is fair to both parties, and involves compromise on the part of both parties.

Contract addendum from the most recent round of negotiations between Bombardier and its striking workers in Thunder Bay. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

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