Workers at the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay, Ont. received "devastating" news from management on Wednesday, with chief operating officer David Van der Wee announcing that more than 200 layoffs are expected in the coming months.
Despite recent work to bring in smaller contracts for the Thunder Bay plant, "by the end of 2021, there's just simply nothing left in the pipeline," Van der Wee said.
Van der Wee added, "just because we have work that brings us to the end of 2021, doesn't mean it's a problem we can solve in 2021. The decisions that need to be made to solve that problem and create a bridge to the next series of work needs to happen in the coming weeks."
The layoffs don't come as a surprise to Dominic Pasqualino, head of the union local representing the Thunder Bay Bombardier workers.
"To me, it's not a surprise because I'm well aware of the amount of work that it takes to sustain this plant. At this point, we need some more work and unfortunately, if work doesn't come in, then you're looking at more and more layoffs and it's devastating to every family."
Bombardier is planning to issue its layoffs in two waves, with about 125 workers being laid off in October and another 75 to be laid off at the beginning of 2021. The Thunder Bay plant currently employs approximately 470 people.
Plant needs contract now as bridge to future jobs
Van der Wee says he expects to see a strong market in the coming years, largely thanks to the projects that have been announced by the Ford government, "however, the manufacturing portion of those projects won't happen for several years."
He says there is a need for smaller contracts to keep the plant running in the meantime, so the company can maintain an "industrial foundation that will enable [them] to compete.
"If you have an empty plant, it is very hard to compete on new projects," said Van der Wee.
The company is looking to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) as a possible source for one of those "bridging contracts."
Bombardier is looking to secure a contract with the TTC to build 60 light rail transit cars, but it hasn't been able to finalize a deal.
"I think it's a matter of alignment. It's just the three levels of government aligning their priorities, making a decision that this is an important priority for the people of Toronto. And then secondly, that Thunder Bay offers the right solution," said Van der Wee.
Pasqualino agreed with Van der Wee about the need for "alignment" among the federal, provincial and municipal governments.
"When I talked to them all individually, they can see the benefit of it. But they need to all get together and to align and to get serious and sign some papers."
He added, "in layman's terms, you have to get them all to come to your house, order some pizza and some beers and get this thing solved."