THUNDER BAY – Striking workers at the city’s Bombardier plant insist they’re ready for the long haul.
Members of Unifor Local 1075 hit the picket line Tuesday for Day 2 of its strike against the transportation company. Linda Lafontaine, who has worked at the plant for 27 years, was among those outside the Montreal Street facility in the morning.
She remembers the short-lived strike of 2011 when the company and union were able to reach an agreement after just three days.
Despite that speedy resolution in the not-too-distant past, Lafontaine isn’t optimistic that there will be such a prompt agreement this time around.
“I feel it’s going to be a long one. I’m very afraid,” she said. “I feel so sorry for the young people here because a lot of them have mortgages and vehicles to pay for. If it’s long we’re going to lose a lot of good workers.”
Unifor Local 1075 president Dominic Pasqualino isn’t anticipating a quick resolution either.
Pasqualino said he has heard Thunder Bay unit vice-president Aaron Rivers is heading out of the country for the rest of the week, which will presumably put talks on hold. While those reports are unconfirmed, it’s just the newest sign of tension between the two sides that reportedly haven’t had any meaningful discussions in more than two days.
“Saturday was the last time they basically talked to us about an offer. We were waiting at the table all day Saturday, all day Sunday and all day Monday,” Pasqualino said.
“We actually gave them longer than the 72 hours we promised them, hoping they would come to the table but they weren’t interested in talks unless we were going to accept all their concessions.”
Company spokesperson Stephanie Ash said she was not aware of whether or not Rivers had left.
Pamphlets distributed by union members claim the company’s offer includes a reduction in benefits, eliminating a group of employees to be replaced by an outside contractors and nixing retirement benefits.
The pickets standing outside of the local plants say they’re just not willing to make those kinds of consessions.
“I’m ready to retire and now if they do what they want to do here I won’t be able to retire,” Lafontaine said.
“I’m very upset the company decided to go the way it did. I was very hopeful we wouldn’t even go on strike and believed they would give us a good deal. They’re not giving us anything.”
Rumours are swirling along the picket line that the company could be looking at bringing in replacement workers, which Ash neither confirmed nor denied.
If the company were to bring in replacement workers, Pasqualino does not believe they would be from the sister plant in Quebec considering that facility recently went through a nearly six-week long strike of their own.
The jobs aren’t the easiest to replace.
“I can’t believe somebody who has no skills, how they’re going to build these cars,” he said.
While the workers appear to be united on the line, Pasqualino is still concerned some might begin to seek other opportunities, harming the plant long-term.
One way or another the people are going to be working, he said.