THUNDER BAY - The head of the union representing more than 1,100 workers at the Thunder Bay Bombardier plant remains optimistic more orders will be placed for additional mass transit vehicles in southern Ontario following a letter from a federal minister urging the province to help the employees in the city.
In the letter, obtained by tbnewswatch.com, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Francois-Philippe Champagne, writes to the provincial Minister of Transportation, Jeff Yurek, and encourages him to ensure both governments are working together to protect jobs in Thunder Bay.
“Some fluctuation in employment levels is common to plant-based work where fulfillment requirements can vary over the life of a contract but without further work on the horizon, the viability of the Thunder Bay plant and the associate jobs are permanently at risk,” the letter reads.
Dominic Pasqualino, president of Unifor Local 1075, said the letter is very encouraging to see and shows that both levels of government are working together.
Union and company officials met with Ontario Premier Doug Ford earlier this month regarding future contracts. The local Bombardier plant, the largest private sector employer in the city, is completing work on two major contracts with Metrolinx and the Toronto Transit Commission. Work is expected to be complete by the end of 2019.
“I know Bombardier, Unifor, the CEDC and other agencies have been working tirelessly making sure the government knows the situation we are in,” Pasqualino said. “We had a fantastic year last year. We produced an amazing amount of cars and we have our production line geared up to provide more. We need orders to produce more and hopefully we can get some very quickly.”
Champagne warns in his letter that work on these remaining contracts is “tapering off resulting in significant layoffs planned for June 2019.”
The letter details funding for infrastructure projects across Canada, including more than $8.3 billion for transit in Ontario, with $4.9 billion allocated for Toronto alone, and $593 million for Metrolinx.
Champagne wrote the federal government does not play a role in procurement for projects that are part of co-investments, but he is urging Yurek to consider the hundreds of Ontario workers in Thunder Bay.
“Central to your government’s ambitious plan for transit in the GTA is the commitment to assume the responsibility for both the construction of new subway lines and the operation of the existing Toronto Transit Commission subway system,” the letter reads.
“Recognizing that these longer term projects could potentially result in new rolling stock orders in the out years, I encourage you to look into some immediate options available to the Government of Ontario that would protect jobs at the Thunder Bay plant in the short term.”
Pasqualino said it is important that both levels of government work together and use all their resources to get the products needed in Southern Ontario and protect jobs here in the north.
“It will mean more work. That’s all we are hoping for,” Pasqualino said. “Everything has to line up to get these orders. The sooner these orders come through the sooner we will be at work and the sooner Toronto will get the cars they need.”
“Everybody is working together,” Pasqualino added. “I’m hoping these orders come quickly so it will minimize any layoffs that will happen.”
A request for an interview with the Minister of Transportation on the matter has been made.