THUNDER BAY — About half the 1,100 workers at the Bombardier plant in Thunder Bay appear headed for layoff with an undetermined duration.
The company has scheduled a town hall meeting at the plant on Wednesday, where details are expected to be released.
Company COO David Van Der Wee had indicated during a visit to the plant last month that any layoffs would likely occur in the fourth quarter of the year.
Members of Unifor local 1075, which represents the bulk of the plant's workforce, have been bracing for bad news because orders for Toronto Transit Commission streetcars and Metrolinx Go Transit rail cars are scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
To minimize the impact of job cuts, hundreds of workers agreed to participate in a work-sharing program that started in June, giving them a four-day work week.
Union president Dominic Pasqualino said Tuesday night that, for his members, "right now, it's the scariest time. It looks like these layoffs are coming, and I can't tell them when they're coming back."
In an interview with Tbnewswatch, Pasqualino said it's essential for the two senior governments to work together to help the plant get new orders.
"Every day that the federal and provincial government don't get together and sign a new contract, it's going to be another day that my people are going to be laid off."
Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro said "It's a very difficult day for the employees and their families. They're the people directly impacted, and you deal with the immediacy of that announcement, but you also wonder about the future and how long it will be."
Mauro added "Given the enormity of the importance of Bombardier here in the city to our GDP and as our largest private-sector employer, it's just very difficult news for all of us."
The mayor said the TTC and Metrolinx may still proceed with new orders for mass transit vehicles at some point, but the senior governments need to help finance those projects, and there must be a Canadian content requirement attached to the deals.
Both Mauro and Pasqualino have pointed to Buy America clauses in U.S. transportation contracts under the Trump administration as hampering Bombardier's ability to land new orders.
Last month, the Ontario government announced it had given Metrolinx a mandate to procure an additional 36 bi-level cars from the Thunder Bay plant, and had given the company the option of extending the timeline for delivery of the existing order for 63 cars.
Northern Development Minister Greg Rickford said the two measures would help keep some workers employed until 2022.
The NDP's Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath called on the province to take action.