Thunder Bay·Audio

Bombardier Thunder Bay striking workers looking for 'respect'

It's day two of what's expected to be a lengthy labour dispute at the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay.

Light rail manufacturer says it's disappointed the union didn't seriously consider its offer

John Sturdivant has worked at Bombardier for more than two years. The union says the company wants to cut post-retirement benefits to anyone with less than five years of experience. Sturdivant says that's unacceptable. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

It's day two of what's expected to be a lengthy labour dispute at the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay.

John Sturdivant is one of about 900 assembly line and trades workers on the picket line. He's worked at Bombardier for a little more than two years.

He does his job with pride, Sturdivant said, and is looking for the company to respect that.

“It's extremely frustrating … you come here and expect to do a good job and give them a good product to sell and you find out the company basically wants to take your money and put you out on the streets with worse benefits,” he said.

The union he’s a part of — Unifor — claims Bombardier wants to eliminate post-retirement benefits for workers with fewer than five years experience.

The union has also raised concerns about Bombardier sending manufacturing work historically done in Thunder Bay to Mexico.

A spokesperson for Bombardier, Stephanie Ash, disputed that assertion.

"That's not accurate," she said. "The work force in Thunder Bay has more than doubled in the last four years, from 600 in 2010 to 1300 here today."

"Bombardier is not a local Thunder Bay business only."

Bombardier open to talks

Bombardier wouldn’t talk about specifics in its contract offer, but Ash said the company believes “we offered a really good contract proposal — one that provides for very well paid jobs, very well paid jobs for Thunder Bay people.”

Ash said Bombardier is disappointed the union didn't take its proposal seriously and open to further discussions.

Meanwhile, Sturdivant said he'll be on the picket line as long as it takes to get a better offer.

“More or less, they're saying they want me to work hard for 60 years and then put me out on the street and I don't like that.”

Unifor said it will have a picket line up at the Montreal Street plant 24 hours a day, and is looking at setting up a second picket at Keefer Terminal, which it says Bombardier uses for shipping.


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