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Union leader fears for future of Bombardier plant

Dominic Pasqualino says relationship with Toronto must be fixed
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On the heels of renewed criticism by Toronto officials over delays in streetcar deliveries from Bombardier, the head of Unifor Local 1075 at the Thunder Bay plant is expressing concern.

Referring to the prospect of being shut out of future orders, Dominic Pasqualino said, "If we don't get more work from Toronto, the plant is going to be in jeopardy because Toronto is our biggest customer by far."

Even before the Oct. 12 revelation that Bombardier will fall short of this year's target for streetcar production, the Toronto Transit Commission issued a request for information from potential suppliers for 100 additional streetcars for delivery in 2023/24.

In an Oct. 13 interview with, Pasqualino said he fully understands why the TTC and Toronto politicians are upset with the company.

"Toronto is very unhappy right now. We all understand that in the plant...We don't expect Toronto to be enthusiastic about buying more cars from us if we don't solve these issues."

Pasqualino said Bombardier and its workers have been doing their best and will try hard to continue to make improvements aimed at speeding up the delivery rate.

According to the TTC, under the original delivery schedule, it should have 146 new streetcars in service by now, but there are just 45, a situation it's called "completely unacceptable."

The commission continues to pursue a $50-million legal claim against Bombardier for its failure to meet delivery targets.

The company has said that since it launched a turnaround plan last year, it has met every quarterly delivery commitment to the TTC over the past 16 months.

Pasqualino isn't faulting Bombardier for any lack of effort to resolve its problems.

"I can tell you that the management's been working very hard...and, to be fair, some of these issues were longstanding before these (management) people were in place. And they have been working diligently and have been expressing to us to try and do our best and we have been doing our best."

Saying the company has gone "to extraordinary lengths" to try to meet deadlines, Pasqualino pointed to the extensive amount of overtime that he said plant workers are putting in, the hiring of additional workers, and the millions of dollars that have been spent in the plant to speed up production.

The result, he said, has been a dramatic improvement but "it's still not meeting the customer's demands, and we are very concerned about that."

Bombardier attributed the latest delay to problems in the supply chain, and said it was taking additional remedial action.

Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro described the situation as a contractual issue between the company and the City of Toronto, but added that "obviously, the province has been a significant funder with the procurement that has occurred within the city of Toronto, so we're obviously very interested in the outcome of this."

Mauro said Bombardier's success at winning mass transit contracts in the Toronto area has led to "great economic benefit" for Thunder Bay, and that anything that has the potential to negatively impact on that "of course is of great concern."

The MPP noted that the need for mass transit in southern Ontario is "huge, (and) we would love, obviously, to see that work stay in Ontario and stay in Thunder Bay."