Union says Bombardier should be awarded contract to build more Toronto streetcars
Hundreds of workers have been laid off at Thunder Bay plant over the last year
Less than a year after completing an order consisting of 204 vehicles, Bombardier could again be contracted to build streetcars for the Toronto Transit Commission, says Unifor.
A report goes before the Toronto Transit Commission on Thursday recommending the board approve the immediate order of 13 new streetcars for $140 million, with the potential to build a total of 60 if funding can be secured from senior levels of government.
Unifor Local 1075 president Dominic Pasqualino, who represents workers at the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay, said if awarded to Bombardier, it would be a step in the right direction — but still just a fraction of what's needed to save jobs at his plant.
"What we do need is to get the other two parties, the provincial and federal government, on board so they can get the complete order of 60 cars," Pasqualino said.
Hundreds laid off
After the previous streetcar order and a Metrolinx contract for Bombardier BiLevel GO train cars were complete, the plant was decimated by layoffs and the workforce has dwindled to under 500 employees.
Layoffs have continued, up to and including last Friday, Pasqualino said. "There are going to be more layoffs throughout this year and into early next year," he added.
"Our numbers are going to be going down. What we need really for our plant to flourish is another BiLevel contract — a large one — that needs the cars quickly so we can work at them at a faster pace, obviously this [streetcar] contract and hopefully more will be added onto that, and also a subway car contract."
Pasqualino said that would bring the plant close to what had been produced over much of the last decade, and allow for a workforce of around 1,000 employees.
Right now, work at the plant is a series of smaller bridge deals, including a 36-car extension with Metrolinx and a few contracts with state transit authorities in the United States.
Bombardier not yet committing to Thunder Bay
David Van Der Wee, Bombardier's chief operating officer for the Americas region, said the company has been trying to generate more business for the Thunder Bay plant.
"It's all about momentum. We've been working on momentum in our discussions around the situation in Thunder Bay for more than two years now," Van Der Wee said.
But Van Der Wee wouldn't commit to having the streetcars built in Thunder Bay.
"I think it's too premature but obviously Thunder Bay has more than done their fair share to prove they are definitely part of the solution," Van Der Wee said.
Van Der Wee said the company would evaluate its options based on the number of vehicles eventually ordered by Toronto.