Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com
A Unifor Local 1075 member stands outside the Airlane Hotel on Tuesday while fellow striking workers cast ballots in a Ministry of Labour vote on Bombardier's last offer.
THUNDER BAY -- The strike at the city’s Bombardier plant goes on.
Unifor Local 1075 members overwhelmingly rejected the company’s last offer on Tuesday during a Ministry of Labour supervised vote, with 81.5 per cent saying no deal to Bombardier.
In total, 612 members voted against the company’s offer while 139 voted to accept the contract and bring the six-week strike to an end.
Unifor Local 1075 president Dominic Pasqualino considers the wide margin to be a victory for the union, forcing the company to return to the bargaining table.
“Hopefully they’ll listen to us now and get some results,” he said.
“I suspect, and obviously the membership believes as well, there will be another offer and that’s what we’re working towards--an honest, fair offer.”
Pasqualino added he believes the company filed the application for the Ministry of Labour vote as a quick survey to see if there was any dissension within the union ranks.
Company officials declined to be interviewed for this story but provided a statement released on behalf of Aaron Rivers, the company’s head of operations for the Americas.
“As the Bombardier Transportation head of operations for the Americas region, it is now my sole responsibility to shift our focus from fighting to get the Thunder Bay work force back to work, to ensuring that Bombardier's customer contracts and commitments are fully met; utilizing all of our multiple resources to do so,” the statement from Rivers reads.
“We will now step away in light of today's vote results, consider the impacts of the results on our customers and business moving forward, and make the tough necessary decisions."
Rivers had previously vowed in an open letter sent Monday to members that “even after four, eight or 12 more weeks of strike, the last company offer will not change.”
The primary point of contention during the labour dispute, which began on July 14, are concessions the company is seeking to early retirement benefits for recent hires and a change to the pension structure of future workers.
If the members had voted to accept it, the offer would have seen employees hired after Dec. 31, 2010 receive a lump sum payout of $350 in lieu of any pre-65 early retirement benefits. New hires would be ineligible for early retirement benefits.
Future hires would also have been enrolled in a defined contribution pension plan, while all current workers would remain on their defined benefit plan.
There were 751 ballots counted, though there were some additional ones that were said to be spoiled. However, that leaves close to 150 members who were eligible to vote who chose not to.
Pasqualino said of the 900 striking workers, some were on injured or sick leave. However, he is concerned some of those 150 won’t be back at the plant when the dispute is eventually resolved.
“It may speak numbers to people who won’t be coming back to Bombardier when the contract is settled. Unfortunately, if we don’t settle in the near future that number is going to increase,” he said.
The two sides have not met for formal negotiations since Aug. 16, when the offer that was voted on was originally presented to the union’s bargaining committee. The bargaining committee rejected the offer on the spot, prompting the company apply to the provincial ministry for the vote last week.
UPDATE: This is an update to a previous version, which was published prior to voting results being released. Some of the comments posted below reference the previous version.