Striking Bombardier workers will get a chance next week to vote on the company’s latest and final offer.
The company on Wednesday successfully appealed to the Ministry of Labour requesting a supervised vote.
However, Unifor Local 1075 officials said they are confident their membership will reject the offer, following suit with the union response this past Saturday when the deal was initially proposed.
Bob Orr, assistant to Unifor president Jerry Dias, said the latest maneuver by Bombardier is simply the company’s way of trying to circumvent the union.
But with so many concessions still on the table, including a loss of benefits at retirement, a switch to a defined contribution and a smaller-than-hoped for salary increase, Orr said it’s time for solidarity on the picket-line ranks.
He added they plan to recommend the membership reject the offer during the mandated secret-ballot vote, expected to take place on Tuesday.
He’s hopeful that will force company officials back to the bargaining table.
“There’s no doubt we’ve got the support of the membership. This committee is the voice of their members. This is a very experienced committee with a lot of years of bargaining. What will be very helpful in the vote is the amount of concessions the company has on the table and also how well they’re doing and what the CEO makes, what their profits are,” Orr said.
“What’s in the agreement itself will be our best asset to get this deal rejected.”
Workers have been on strike for more than five weeks.
Bombardier spokeswoman Stephanie Ash said the company had no choice but to turn to the Ministry of Labour after the latest contract rejection.
“Unifor was very clear in rejecting that offer. They did not come back with a counter-proposal. We said at the beginning of the week we were going to have to look at what we do next, how do we move forward,” Ash said.
“It was very clear that Unifor has no intention of negotiating with us, that this process would not come to an end through the traditional negotiations process. So we really looked at all the options and the company felt this is the only way to move forward.”
Ash said Bombardier officials truly believe this is the best way to put an end to the strike and they don’t think employees have had a chance to voice their opinion on the latest offer, the union rejecting it forthwith.
“Both the last two proposals were rejected immediately without Unifor taking the time to go back to their members and take the 48-hour period we offered for them to review and consult with their members before they came back with a decision.”
Orr said it’s merely the company’s way of trying to break the union resolve.
Striking workers are getting on average about $250 a week in strike pay, a far cry from their regular salaries.
“It’s just an argument of convenience,” he said. “We are the voice of the membership. That’s the process, but they just don’t accept that because they aren’t getting what they want.”
Asked what’s next if the union membership rejects the offer during next week’s vote, Ash said the company will have to regroup and make some tough decisions.
“That’s a really good question. If the vote comes back as a no to the last contract offer, then it will really be Bombardier’s decision to look at what’s next for Thunder Bay.”