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Toronto Transit “playing chicken” with Thunder Bay Bombardier workers

Unifor asks for streetcar order to be accelerated to keep northwest plant open
Bombardier Thunder Bay
Bombardier Thunder Bay

The union representing Bombardier workers in Thunder Bay is calling on the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and the City of Toronto to accelerate plans to order 60 new streetcars to keep the northwestern Ontario facility thriving beyond 2020.

Unifor brass appeared before the TTC board on Dec. 16 with a warning that any delay jeopardizes the future of Thunder Bay’s largest manufacturing plant.

Bombardier workers got the word in July that half of its 1,100 workforce would be laid off by year’s end due to an absence of new transit orders in 2020 and beyond.

The first round of layoffs of 200 workers began in early November.

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“Toronto is the fastest growing city in North America and also suffers some of the worst transit congestion on the continent," said Unifor National President Jerry Dias in a union news release.

"With all of its foot-dragging, the City of Toronto is playing chicken with commuters in Toronto and workers in Thunder Bay."

Bombardier’s Thunder Bay shops produce bi-level trains for Metrolinx, TTC streetcars and is the manufacturer of Rocket Subway Cars for Toronto's subway system.

The union maintains there are not enough orders to sustain the Thunder Bay plant beyond 2020.

According to the TTC’s five-year service plan, the funds for the 60 streetcars on order aren’t being allocated until 2022, too late to keep the Thunder Bay plant open.

Unifor wants the order to be accelerated, plus an additional 40 cars be purchased, and further that revenue from a City Building Fund be tapped into to purchase new subway cars from Bombardier rather than refurbish current trains.

"If Mayor Tory is serious that Toronto needs sixty more streetcars now, then the city's plans must change now," said Unifor Ontario Director Naureen Rizvi.

"Workers have already felt the effects of previous delays with job losses, but another delay risks making the temporary damage permanent. Placing this order is a no brainer and would be a win – win for commuters and workers."

Thunder Bay faces the possibility of an exodus of skilled workers to other industries and communities.

"We also must remember that our highly skilled members have unique expertise, and if we lose them, they are gone for good. A new TTC order would preserve that skilled workforce in Ontario," said Dominic Pasqualino, president of Unifor Local 1075 in Thunder Bay.