Tbnewswatch Local News
2014-08-18 at 3:24PM

At a standstill

Unifor Local 1075 members remain on the picket line, five weeks after they walked off the job at the city
Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com
Unifor Local 1075 members remain on the picket line, five weeks after they walked off the job at the city's Bombardier plant. Both sides admit they aren't sure how to proceed after an offer from the company was immediately rejected over the weekend.
By Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com

THUNDER BAY -- For the first time in weeks Bombardier and Unifor Local 1075 seem to be on the same page.

Unfortunately, it’s that neither side knows how to proceed in their negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.

This comes in the wake of a Saturday afternoon meeting where union representatives immediately rejected an offer put forward by the company’s negotiating team.

Bombardier spokeswoman Stephanie Ash said the latest offer was the most competitive one put forward thus far in the five-week long dispute and was disappointed it didn’t lead to any further discussion.

“They’re not willing to negotiate at all unless we take all concessions off the table,” she said Monday. “It’s only a negotiation if there is compromise on both sides. At this time it is only Bombardier transportation that is willing to compromise.”

The union has not shown any willingness to negotiate around any concessions, she added.

Unifor Local 1075 president Dominic Pasqualino admitted he doesn’t know where negotiations will go from this point. He said the union wants to return to work but they remain committed to getting the deal they have been seeking.

Otherwise the strike would be meaningless.

“Why would we be out on strike for all this time and then not get what we were out for?” he responded, adding that “99 per cent” of the members showed “disgust” with the offer.

“We said don’t bother calling us about another nickel (per hour) because we’re not interested in another nickel. What we are interested in is pension and benefits and if anybody doesn’t know that at this stage of the game they clearly aren’t paying attention.”

Pasqualino said the union has made it quite clear that their primary sticking point is around pension and benefits, something the latest offer did not change.

The nearly 900 workers have not been striking for a wage increase, but instead long-term stability, he said.

“We are not asking for more. They are the aggressors. They are taking things away. We’d like to have it where we were before May 31,” Pasqualino said.

Ash said the company will likely spend the next week exploring their options after the latest talks ended on such a sour note.

She said the switch to a defined contribution pension plan seems to be the major roadblock to reaching a deal but stressed the offers from the company would only apply the change to future hires, not workers currently on the payroll at the plant.

“It’s really a fight not worth fighting, we believe, for our current employees,” she said. “If someone chooses to come work at Bombardier next year or the year after that is there choice if they want to work for a company that offers a defined contribution plan.”

Meanwhile, the three completed Rocket subway cars that were sent out of the Montreal Street plant last week are on hold at a Bombardier facility in Downsview until the rest of the train can be sent.

Toronto Transit Commission spokesman Brad Ross said cars will not be brought into their yard until they have a full train. Any rumours of cars being rejected until the strike is resolved are untrue.

“This labour dispute between Bombardier and its workforce has nothing to do with the TTC,” Ross said.

“Bombardier is continuing to produce subway cars and is delivering them to us. We will accept them and commission them for operations.”

Once the second half of the train is sent the cars will undergo the final assembly and testing before being put into service. Ash anticipates those cars will be sent in September.

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