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Striking Quebec rail workers reject Bombardier’s contract offer

A welder works inside a commuter rail car being built for Long Island, N.Y. at the Bombardier Transport plant in La Pocatière, Que. Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2003.


Striking workers at Bombardier Inc.'s rail facility in La Pocatière, Que., have overwhelmingly rejected a contract offer from the company.

About 330 unionized employees voted late Wednesday 89.6 per cent against Bombardier's proposal for a new collective agreement, the La Pocatiere union affiliated with the Confederation of National Trade unions said in a news release Thursday.

Among the outstanding issues for the union are outsourcing and pensions.

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The employees at the plant, northeast of Quebec City, have been on strike for more than 3 weeks.

It's the first strike action at the complex in 30 years.

The plant manufactures subway and commuter rail cars, including units for the Montreal, Toronto and Chicago transit systems.

Bombardier officials have said the strike shouldn't affect operations. They were not immediately available for comment Thursday morning.

La Pocatière employees have been without a contract since Sept. 30, 2011.

Meanwhile, workers at Bombardier's Learjet aerospace facility in Wichita, Kansas, two weeks ago approved a 5-year contract offered by the company, putting an end to a walkout that lasted more than a month.

La Pocatière local union president Mario Lévesque said in a telephone interview that outsourcing is the major bone of contention.

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The union says Montreal-based Bombardier has failed to honour its promise to maintain jobs at the plant and is increasingly outsourcing work to other facilities it has in Ontario, the United States and Mexico.

The company hasn't followed through on its commitment to guarantee work on new cars for the Montreal Métro, said Mr. Lévesque.

Bombardier Transportation spokesman Marc Laforge said the company has offered to invest more than $3-million to equip the La Pocatière facility with state-of-the-art technology that would allow it to do more work now being done outside.

Bombardier is also offering a cumulative 12.5 per cent salary increase over the period of the proposed 5-year contract and the injection of $9-million into the pension fund, he said, adding, "This is a generous offer."

"We realize the company has put a lot of money on the table, but that's not the key issue," said Mr. Lévesque. "What we are asking for is that jobs be preserved here and that Bombardier respect the commitments it made."

Mr. Laforge said Bombardier won a court injunction on Tuesday limiting to 25 the number of strikers at the two major entrances of the La Pocatière plant.

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