Bombardier facing union drive in Montreal

A Bombardier plant is shown in Montreal, Thursday, October 29, 2015. .
A Bombardier plant is shown in Montreal, Thursday, October 29, 2015. . Graham Hughes / The Canadian Press

Bombardier Aerospace office workers and a major international union are working to organize three plants in the Montreal area that make commercial and business jets.

A spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers says it was approached by employees who are frustrated by cuts to benefits, outsourcing to low-cost countries, increased work loads and lack of job security.

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The Machinists union currently represents 4,500 shop floor workers at the plants and is aiming to sign about 2,000 more employees who do office work.

Union representative Dave Chartrand says the Bombardier workers are fed up about lacking a voice as the company has shed jobs in an effort to improve its financial health.

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Chartrand says workers were angered by this week’s news that compensation for Bombardier’s five top executives and executive board chairman went up by nearly 50 per cent last year.

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Bombardier spokesman Bryan Tucker said the union drive is a matter it will “manage internally, not in public.”

The union says each employee received a two-page registered letter from Bombardier (TSX:BBD.B) urging them to maintain the current work relationship.

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Chartrand says the biggest challenge for the unionization efforts is employee fears of reprisals if they are identified as joining the effort.

A bargaining unit is automatically certified in Quebec if a majority of targeted office workers sign membership cards.

A similar union drive failed about 15 years ago. The Unifor union represents Bombardier Aerospace office workers at a Toronto plant.