THUNDER BAY, ON, Dec. 2, 2022 /CNW/ - The number of workers at the Alstom Thunder Bay plant has hit an all-time low, a situation deeply aggravated by the Ontario government's awarding of a $9 billion contract to a consortium run by Hitachi Rail, according to Unifor.
"For decades, Unifor members have built iconic rail vehicles known for their impeccable quality and safety. Now, it's time for the Ontario government to deliver for Alstom workers and put Ontarians to work," said Lana Payne, Unifor National President. "In the absence of new contracts, better Canadian content laws, or a government that will adequately defend workers' jobs, this plant and the livelihoods of hundreds of families are all at risk."
On November 17, 2022, the Ontario government awarded a $9 billion contract to Connect 6ix, a consortium run by Hitachi. Hitachi builds light rail vehicles in numerous manufacturing facilities around the world, none of which are in Canada. The contract includes $2.3 billion for light rail vehicle orders that the union contends could have been built at the Alstom plant in Thunder Bay had Canadian content rules been applied.
"At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of workers were laid off. Now the situation is worse with just 150 active workers inside the plant," said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director. "The machine shop, foundry and paint shop are near shuttering already. Workers have a legitimate fear that once skilled workers and equipment are lost, they may never be replaced."
Between 2011 and 2019, the number of Unifor members working in the Alstom plant varied from a low of 750 to a high of approximately 1,300. Recently, 200 workers lost recall rights after being laid off for three years and 22 opted for early retirement.
Ontario's current rules require that transit vehicles purchased by the province be built with at least 25% Canadian content. When awarding the $9 billion Ontario Line contract to Hitachi, the government made the requirement just 10%, a move that undermines the government's job creation strategy and the Premier's "Buy Ontario" language.
A contract to replace the Toronto Transit Commission's (TTC) Line 2 subway cars holds the potential to create hundreds of jobs at the Alstom plant according to the union's estimates. Alstom and three other overseas companies have pre-qualified for consideration including CRRC Qingdao Sifang in China.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.
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