Jamie Smith, tbnewswatch.com
Workers hold picket signs after walking off the job Monday.
THUNDER BAY -- The only thing both sides seem to agree on is that it's disappointing Thunder Bay workers at Bombardier headed to the picket line Monday afternoon.
The strike became official around 2 p.m. as hundreds of workers filed onto Montreal Street, picket signs in hand after six weeks of negotiations between Unifor and management broke down. Local 1075 president Dominic Pasqualino, who represents around 900 workers, said the company is attacking benefits and pensions and haven't budged since July 12.
It was a similar sticking point in 2011 when workers went on strike for three days. This time Pasqualino said neither side looks like they're willing to back down.
"They've attacked it more ferociously than last time and here we are," Pasqualino said.
"We're not going back to work for less benefits than we had before."
Unifor national president Jerry Dias said there's no reason for the company to be looking for concessions when it has a $3.7 billion contract at the Thunder Bay plant. He came to Thunder Bay to negotiate a deal.
"It didn't work very well I mean I came out here to find a solution but I can't do that playing solitaire. I need someone to speak to."
Fences were up around the plant Monday morning along with buses for non-striking employees. Dias said that shows the company wasn't bargaining in good faith.
"They were looking for a dispute," he said.
But company spokesperson Stephanie Ash said the company has been committed all along to open and fair negotiations to try and find a reasonable agreement. Bombardier gave an offer that provided well-paying jobs and a salary increase.
"We're really disappointed," she said. "We made a very good offer."
Pasqualino said the last 18 months between employees and management has been bitter with more grievances and arbitration than normal. Dias agreed.
"The relationship here is terrible for some strange reason. It doesn't make any sense to me," he said.
Ash said the company is willing to negotiate again whenever the union chooses to return to the table. When asked about replacement workers, she said Bombardier will take every measure necessary to deliver its product as the customer comes first.