Walking away from a wage settlement endorsed by their own union leadership, 8,000 rank and file members of Local 712 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers had shut down the assembly lines for Bombardier Regional Jets and, as of press time, effectively stymied production of both Challenger business jets and RJs by stopping fabrication of critical subassemblies for those aircraft. Closed are Bombardier plants in Mirabel, St. Laurent and Dorval.
The strike, the first to assail Bombardier since 1965, came as a surprise after a settlement offer from management was approved by union officials in a meeting just four days before on April 11. That plan, which called for an annual wage increase of 3.25 percent over four years, also included a C$1,000 ($630) signing bonus. That settlement was rejected by an estimated 60 percent of the union’s local membership at a mass meeting April 13. In that vote the rank and file clung to its earlier demand of 5-percent wage hikes annually over a three-year term and a reduction in the retirement age from 60 to 58. As the first week of the strike dragged on, no talks between the union and Bombardier were scheduled or publicly acknowledged.
Bombardier workers earn an average $C21.50 ($13.55) an hour and have been without a wage contract since November 30. Union representatives have pledged to continue the strike “indefinitely,” while a Bombardier spokesman said the company was taking the situation “one day at a time.”