THUNDER BAY — The union representing about 275 workers at Thunder Bay’s Alstom light-rail plant says it hopes a new $171-million refurbishing contract will get started before the leaves are off the trees next fall in order to prevent layoffs.
“Nothing will really start until September, when they do their analysis and determine what pats they need to order,” Unifor Local 1075 president Dominic Pasqualino said.
Pasqualino was on hand Nov. 30 when Ontario Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney and Alstom officials formally signed the contract, as expected, to refurbish 94 bi-level cars for Go Transit.
“It simply makes sense to refurbish these made-in-Ontario rail cars in the same facility that built them,” Mulroney, who is a Toronto-area MPP, said in a news release.
Pasqualino said work on other contracts is beginning to wind down, so the new one is needed more than ever.
“Unless we get something else that is solid, there could be a gap” in employment before the Go Transit project begins, Pasqualino said.
About 400 people in total, including Unifor members, work at the Montreal Street operation. Alstom took it over from Bombardier earlier this year.
Work on the Go Transit bi-level cars is to include the addition of new seats and USB electrical ports, as well as upgraded washrooms. The work is to be completed by 2024, a provincial news release said.
“We are delighted with the opportunity to extend our 45-year partnership with Go Transit, and we thank the Ontario government for their renewed trust and confidence, and for recognizing the unique industrial expertise of our team in Thunder Bay,” Alstom Americas president Michael Keroulle commented in the release.
In June, Alstom received a separate $275-million contract to supply the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) with an additional 60 “low-floor” streetcars, which are to be built in Thunder Bay.
Pasqualino acknowledged that the Thunder Bay operation has been on the receiving end of public-transit contracts under Ontario’s Ford government, but said the workforce level remains well below earlier years.
“I’ve been (Local 1075) president since 2011, and we’ve never had (until recently) less than 700 of our people at the plant,” he said.
In the provincial news release, Ontario Northern Development Minister Greg Rickford said the Thunder Bay light-rail operation helps make the province “a world-leading manufacturing powerhouse.”
“Targeted investments like these will continue to create the conditions for economic growth and job creation in Northern Ontario, making it the best place to work, live, and prosper,” said Rickford (Kenora-Rainy River).
Carl Clutchey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal