Bom­bardier to lay off work­ers in Thun­der Bay

The Prince George Citizen - - MONEY - Christo­pher REYNOLDS and Jor­dan PRESS

Bom­bardier Inc. is lay­ing off half of the 1,100 work­ers at its Thun­der Bay, Ont., rail­way car plant, ac­cord­ing to a fed­eral gov­ern­ment source.

Two ma­jor con­tracts in On­tario – for the Toronto Tran­sit Com­mis­sion street­cars and Metrolinx GO Tran­sit rail cars – are slated to halt by the end of the year.

Lo­cal union pres­i­dent Do­minic Pasqualino said he fears more job losses are on the hori­zon be­yond the ini­tial 550 as the con­tracts wind down.

“This busi­ness is cycli­cal. Things go up, things go down. But the thing is, it doesn’t look like things are go­ing to go back up,” he said in an in­ter­view.

“Now you’re look­ing at these peo­ple mov­ing from Thun­der Bay or work­ing in the log­ging in­dus­try or the min­ing in­dus­try. It’s very dis­rup­tive.”

On­tario Trans­porta­tion Min­is­ter Caro­line Mul­roney con­firmed lay­offs were com­ing.

“Our gov­ern­ment has spo­ken to ex­ec­u­tives at Bom­bardier to ex­press our dis­ap­point­ment that their com­pany has taken this step. We urge the com­pany to work with the provin­cial gov­ern­ment to come to an agree­ment that would see jobs re­main at the Thun­der Bay plant,” Mul­roney said.

Pasqualino laid part of the blame for a lack of new con­tracts on the prov­ince, how­ever, say­ing that “our cus­tomer is the gov­ern­ment, it’s not in­di­vid­u­als.”

He also pointed the finger at the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, which has backed Buy Amer­ica-like clauses re­quir­ing a min­i­mum thresh­old of lo­cal con­tent.

Last month, Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rick­ford said On­tario’s re­gional trans­porta­tion agency, Metrolinx, ex­tended an of­fer for 36 ad­di­tional rail cars to Bom­bardier.

Pasqualino said he’s “happy with 36, but we need 360.”

“We’re go­ing to have an empty plant in 2020,” he said Tuesday.

“We want to keep the wheels turn­ing. But it’s get­ting close.”

The re­gional tran­sit agency has also given Bom­bardier the op­tion to slow down pro­duc­tion of the 63 re­main­ing rail cars slated for com­ple­tion by year’s end.

A Bom­bardier spokes­woman de­clined to com­ment.

The trans­porta­tion gi­ant has been down­siz­ing its aero­space and rail­way op­er­a­tion for sev­eral years as it at­tempts to im­prove prof­itabil­ity.

It is ex­it­ing the com­mer­cial air­craft busi­ness af­ter sell­ing its tur­bo­prop and re­gional jet op­er­a­tions. Bom­bardier has also sold a ma­jor­ity stake in its C Se­ries air­craft pro­gram to Air­bus, which re­named it the A220. Em­ploy­ment at its Que­bec rail­way man­u­fac­tur­ing plant in La Po­catiere has also been threat­ened by a lack of new con­tracts.

The com­pany shored up its fi­nances in 2015 by sell­ing a 30-per-cent stake in Bom­bardier Trans­porta­tion to the Caisse de de­pot for US$1.5 bil­lion.

De­spite the own­er­ship, the Que­bec pen­sion fund man­ager awarded a con­tract for its $6.3-bil­lion elec­tric train project to a con­sor­tium in­volv­ing Al­stom Trans­port Canada and a sub­sidiary of SNC-Lavalin in­stead of Bom­bardier. No lo­cal con­tent re­quire­ment was set by CDPQ In­fra, the sub­sidiary of the Caisse lead­ing the project.

CP FILE PHOTO

Bom­bardier Pres­i­dent and CEO Alain Belle­mare at­tends the com­pany’s an­nual gen­eral meet­ing in Montreal in May.

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