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Bombardier president and chief executive Eric Martel unveils a mockup of the company's new Challenger 3500 business jet at a virtual event in Montreal on Sept. 14, 2021.CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/Reuters

Bombardier Inc. BBD-B-T chief executive Éric Martel is meeting Friday with a union representing Montreal workers on a key business jet program as the corporate planemaker aims to avert further labour strife.

Around 1,800 Bombardier workers, mostly on the company’s strong-selling Challenger business jet family, walked off the job on Monday after rejecting a contract offer because of pay.

The Challenger accounted for just over a third of Bombardier’s plane deliveries in 2021.

Business jet companies are filling up order books on higher demand from wealthy travellers to fly private because of COVID-19, but a recent market sell-off and recession fears have raised questions over the strength of the market.

A Bombardier spokeswoman confirmed Mr. Martel agreed to attend a meeting with the union on Friday but did not offer further details.

A source familiar with the matter who spoke anonymously about the private talks said Mr. Martel was participating at the negotiating table, an uncommon move for a Bombardier CEO.

The union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), is asking for higher wage increases in the last two years of the contract, arguing that Bombardier’s offer of up to 2.5 per cent falls below rising living costs.

Canada’s inflation rate hit 6.8 per cent in April, a 31-year high. “What they want in their next contract is the recognition of the sacrifices that they made during the last few years to help the company and that higher living costs are taking into consideration,” union spokesman Eric Rancourt said this week in a statement.

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