THUNDER BAY — The union representing workers at Alstom Thunder Bay is welcoming the news the manufacturing plant will hire around 25 workers to advance existing streetcar and light rail vehicle (LRV) contracts.
Justin Roberts, president of Unifor Local 1075, said that will bring the plant’s total workforce above 300 people.
That number was once above 1,200, before hitting an all-time low of around 150 workers last year.
Roberts said the news, which the union learned of in the last week or so, comes as work on a GO Train refurbishment project ramps up.
The plant is looking to hire 25 finisher positions to start in the coming days and weeks, he said, with most expected to be placed on the bi-level refurbishment project.
Others could work on a contract for 60 street cars for the Toronto Transit Commission.
Roberts expects many, if not all, of the hires to be filled by workers who were previously laid off, most of whom have been away for several years and lost seniority rights.
“The company is hoping — and the union as well — that some of our members who had lost their seniority rights during the last layoffs are willing to return, because we could really use some of their expertise in opening up some new stations,” he said.
Retaining experienced workers not only boosts efficiency, but helps ensure that experience isn’t lost and gets passed on to the next generation, he said.
“That's been a major concern with us, that a lot of our trained workers that have 10 years of expertise have been laid off. If we can't get them back to work soon, then all that knowledge and training goes out the window. If they go to other places and find better opportunities… then we have to completely retrain, and it slows production.”
Roberts said current contracts should keep generating work until about the middle of 2025.
The union has called on the province to boost transit investments and increase Canadian content rules, following in the footsteps of aggressive Made in America policies south of the border.
On Friday, Roberts also said he hopes the province will move forward with a cancelled subway car request, which he believes the local plant would have a good shot at.
TBnewswatch has reached out to Alstom for comment on this story.