THUNDER BAY -- Unifor Local 1075’s bargaining committee plans to rally the troops on Monday, marching from Thunder Bay City Hall to Liberal MPP Bill Mauro’s office.
The demonstration is scheduled one day before striking Bombardier Transportation workers are scheduled to cast ballots in a supervised vote ordered by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, their chance to say yes or no to what the company calls its final offer.
Local 1075 president Dominic Pasqualino said workers are upset that neither Mauro nor his Thunder Bay-Superior North counterpart Michael Gravelle have shown up at the picket line since the strike began more than five weeks ago.
“We feel that they are only friends in good times and not in bad times … We’re disgusted that they have not been down to the picket line. We’re not asking them to pick sides, we’re just asking them to hear us,” Pasqualino said.
“We listened to them during the campaigns and if you look at the votes they had overwhelming support from labour. Now when we have problems, they’re not anywhere to be found.”
In response Gravelle said he’s well aware of the situation on the picket line, but as a cabinet minister, it’s not appropriate to show up and shake hands with striking workers.
“This has been really, really tough,” Gravelle said Thursday, adding he’s sure both sides in the ongoing dispute want to see a settlement reached.
“But we need to absolutely respect the collective bargaining process. And what that means is decisions are made by the union membership and decisions are made by companies. And they need to work that out. To go there and stand in a line is a difficult thing and in our position, not an appropriate measure to take.”
Pasqualino said with or without provincial politicians, the resolve of his members remains strong.
He’s confident workers will vote against accepting the company offer when they vote next Tuesday at the Airlane Hotel.
He said he’s had plenty of one-on-one meetings with his membership and most back the union position.
“The consensus is they’re going to stick it out. They trust the bargaining committee to make the right decisions and they’re all upset.
They know what the offer is and they don’t find it acceptable and they actually are going to vote against this,” Pasqualino said.
The company’s latest offer includes raises that amount to about $4 a week, but also cuts benefits at retirement and switches new hires to a defined contribution pension from the current defined benefit pension, a major sticking point in negotiations.
Pasqualino says the company is top heavy and there are plenty of ways to find efficiencies without affecting past, present and future employees.
At least one union member stands fully behind the committee and the direction it’s taken.
Rick Poole is a veteran Bombardier employee and said he’s convinced the offer and subsequent vote are no more than union-busting tactics put in place to divide the ranks.
“I believe their whole intention is to try to divide this union,” Poole said, promising to vote against the offer and with the bargaining committee.
The company on Wednesday suggested tough decisions could be forthcoming if the offer is struck down by the membership, but it didn’t faze Poole in the least.
“I believe Bombardier is going to have to take a look at what they’ve put on the table for proposals and maybe address some of our proposals and sit down at the table an actually talk instead of talking in the newspaper and just pushing their agenda forward and expecting us to take it,” he said.