Northstar Aerospace workers have occupied their plant in Milton, Ontario, Canada, demanding that the company fulfill its pension obligations, after it announced the facility would be shuttered due to the loss of a major Boeing contract.
According to Unifor, the union representing the workers, current retirees, some of whom had worked for Northstar for more than 40 years, could face a 24% cut to their income because of Northstar’s “insufficient funding” of the company’s pension plan, said Unifor.
“This action sends a clear message to Northstar that the company cannot short-change workers and the pension of retirees that have made it profitable for so many years,” said Jerry Dias, president of Unifor National in a statement. “There is no financial reason for refusing to fund the plan. The only excuse is corporate greed.”
The occupation began at 4 am on Aug. 10, and the workers said they have stopped production at the facility until Northstar holds up its end of a commitment to fully fund their pensions. “After months the company has refused to discuss the matter,” said Scott McIlmoyle, president of Unifor Local 112. “Time is running out – Northstar needs to do the right thing.”
Although Unifor acknowledged that the loss of the Boeing contract makes it difficult to avoid closure, the union said the company is still “very healthy and there is no financial excuse not to supplement the pension plan in order to protect future and current retirees.”
The union said that the closure was unexpected by the facility’s 200 employees because Northstar workers had been assured that the Milton operation was on solid footing .
“Our members helped build Northstar Aerospace into what it is today,” said Scott McIlmoyle, president of Unifor Local 112. “This is not right; the company has a moral obligation and the financial ability to make up the pension short fall. Northstar is a financially stable and profitable company.”
Last week, more than 40 workers and Unifor members from the Greater Toronto Area picketed outside the Northstar facility in Milton, Ontario to pass out leaflets and speak with employees and management arriving for the morning shift. Unifor National President and Local 112 member Jerry Dias addressed the crowd.
“We have blood and sweat in this place, and there is no way that they’re taking the machinery out of here and cutting our members’ pensions,” Dias told the crowd. “When we say my sisters and my brothers, we mean it and we will fight for you.”
Northstar first announced the Milton plant’s closure in January, which it blamed on the loss of its contract with Boeing for gears.
“This facility closure is the result of market factors, not the facility’s performance,” said Thomas Smith, Northstar’s vice president and general manager, in a bulletin to the workers. “The closing of the Milton facility is the result of the loss of content on the Boeing AH-64E Apache program. There is not sufficient additional new work to make up for the drastic loss of content on the Apache program for the operation to remain open.”