The union representing workers at an aviation parts manufacturing plant in Milton have stopped production in a dispute over pension cuts.
President of Unifor Local 112, Scott McIlmoyle, told AM 640 that union members entered the Northstar Aerospace plant at 3:30 a.m. on Thursday in response to a 24 per cent shortfall in workers’ pensions.
The reduction is related to a relocation plan by Northstar’s parent company Heligear Canada Acquisition Co., to Windsor and Chicago, which will see the Milton plant shut down permanently after 25 years of service on Sept. 30.
Unifor national president Jerry Dias says that after Northstar started to wind down the pension plan as part of their closure, they discovered a $6-million shortfall. The company proceeded to inform workers that current and soon-to-be retirees would see reductions in their monthly payout.
“We have 50 current retirees, and potentially, another couple hundred more, that could lose about $220 a month,” Dias told AM 640’s Kelly Cutrara.
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“Current retirees make about $880 a month with the average age over 70 years old, so this is significant.”
Dias says the union’s drastic measure of taking over the plant and shutting down production after bargaining with the company, did not work.
“We’ve tried to bargain, we’ve tried to meet with the company. They told us they have no interest in talking about the bargaining,” said Dias.
“Can you image being retired for 10 years and then all of a sudden having 24 per cent of your pension taken away by a company that can afford to pay it?”
Heligear Canada Acquisition Co., which purchased assets of Northstar in a 2012 insolvency proceeding, said in a statement that the pension plan at that time was underfunded due to “poor management.”
Heligear goes on to say that the company does not control the pension design or its investments, and has made every payment required in its negotiated collective agreement with the union.
Northstar, a defence and commercial aerospace manufacturer, employs a total of 150 employees with 113 hourly and 37 salaried people.
The company’s largest customer is Boeing for which gears, transmissions, and fabricated parts are made for helicopters and fixed wing aircraft including Apache helicopters.
Heligear announced the closure of the Milton facility in January, stating “a loss of a majority quantity of customer work.”
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