New contract with Bombardier will “close the gap” with greater possibilities


THUNDER BAY – A new contract for 28 BiLevel cars to be built at the local Bombardier plant is good news for managers and workers, but that doesn’t mean the plant will see 1,100 workers upstairs. Rather, the contract is seen as a way to bridge the gap with larger future orders.

“We’ve always talked about the whole concept of having a critical mass, a minimum of activity that has to be economically viable, be competitive in the marketplace and close the gap with some of these larger contracts that you see in Ontario. to come, whether it’s Ontario Line or others, “said David Van Der Wee, chief operating officer for Bombardier Transportation in the Americas.

Bombardier has signed a contract to build 28 BiLevel commuter rail cars for two transportation authorities on the West Coast of the United States as part of a contract led by the Seattle-based Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority, Washington.

Van Der Wee said the $ 108 million contract is important for a number of reasons, including reconfirming the company’s leadership in the commuter rail market.

“Second, it strengthens a long-standing relationship with regular customers,” he said. “And third, and most importantly, this is great news for Thunder Bay because these vehicles will be built here. “

The city’s Bombardier plant suffered several severe wounds last year, and more than 500 workers were laid off in November due to the closure of two major contracts.

Currently, approximately 470 employees are working to contract 36 BiLevel cars for GO Transit and fans to help the province fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Van Der Wee says the new contract will not allow the company to recall employees laid off last year.

“This will provide continuity in the form of around 300 jobs,” he said. “Honestly, 300 people are not a very competitive way to use a plant that can transport 1,200 people, so we are focusing on the next opportunities to have the critical mass we need.”

Nor does it mean that there will be no further layoffs in the future, said Van Der Wee, and in order to avoid this, larger contracts are still needed.

“The TTC streetcar options really remain the next key opportunity to really close this gap and have a stable workforce,” he said. “If we can seize this opportunity, I really think it’s a great win-win proposition for us, for the people of Toronto. “

Dave Black, general manager of the Thunder Bay plant, says the US contract is great news for employees and the community.

“It shows that all their hard work and efforts over the past few years have paid off,” he said. “This is another testimony to the good work the team is doing.”

Work on the BiLevel cars is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2021 and will increase at full speed in the second quarter, until mid or late 2022.

Black said the plant is ready for the new contract and that when the 36 GO Transit cars are finished, they can easily switch to the new contract.

“To start a new contract, there is always time to get parts,” he said. “With this contract, there are some design changes, but nothing too serious. We will have continuity. Our plan is to complete the GO contract and go straight into it. “


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