THUNDER BAY – Unifor is calling on all levels of government to secure long-overdue product commitments with the Bombardier Thunder Bay plant as the company announced new devastating layoffs of approximately 40% of the plant’s current workforce yesterday.
“For the past three years, Unifor has urged all levels of government to take immediate and decisive action to secure product orders with the plant in order to protect hundreds of highly-skilled workers’ jobs at this world-class facility,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “With the country headed for a potentially drawn-out economic downturn, it is unthinkable for governments to sit on their hands, allow more layoffs and jeopardize a manufacturing facility that will be crucial to Canada’s post-COVID economic recovery.”
The layoffs will affect 200 workers and will come into effect in two stages—125 workers will be laid off in October 2020 with 75 more in 2021. Knowing the plant’s need for product commitments, Unifor began meeting with municipal, provincial and federal officials in early 2018 to solidify funding commitments and secure purchases of new bi-level, subway trains and streetcars manufactured at the facility. The Toronto City Council solidified its transit funding plans in late 2019 while both the Ontario and federal governments continue to fault one another for failing to finalize the province’s transit plans.
Back in May, approximately 60 workers at the plant were recalled to assemble ventilators as part of the Ontario government’s COVID-19 strategy. That work will end within the next two months, roughly when the company plans to proceed with the next round of layoffs. Fulfilling the TTC’s immediate need for 60 additional streetcars would help sustain the plant in the short term, and create a bridge to longer-term transit procurement projects.
“The plant and its workers have always been part of fulfilling the country’s manufacturing needs, from life-saving ventilators to trains, buses, and planes to even war-time minesweepers,” said Dominic Pasqualino, president of Unifor Local 1075. “This plant has always stepped up in times of crisis and that’s exactly where we find ourselves today. The road to economic recovery requires ‘made in Canada‘ green public transit vehicles that could easily be built by our members in Thunder Bay now.”
Recent studies of the Bombardier plant’s economic benefits have shown that each job maintained at the facility supports between 1.5 and 2.8 additional full-time jobs, many of them in Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area. The value of those jobs is a combined $184 million in labor compensation and direct GDP and tax revenue of approximately $545 million and $33.5 million respectively.
When at full capacity, the Bombardier plant is easily Thunder Bay’s largest private-sector employer, sustaining high quality, middle-class jobs for hundreds of families. The loss of some of these jobs has already been a significant economic blow to Thunder Bay and Ontario, but so far has been temporary.
“We need Premier Ford and Prime Minister Trudeau to stop delaying and get the product orders in today. A failure to order public transit vehicles now risks making the damage of these layoffs permanent,” added Pasqualino.