Bombardier & De Havilland workers go on strike, Dash 8 program critical in negotiations

Avatar for Skies MagazineBy Skies Magazine | July 27, 2021

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 24 seconds.

Unifor has confirmed that as of 10:01 a.m. on July 27, 2021, strike action commenced at the Toronto Downsview plant with Unifor members of Local 112 and 673 employed by Bombardier Aviation and De Havilland Aircraft Canada. In a press release, the union said approximately 1,500 Bombardier workers and 700 De Havilland workers walked off the job.

Bombardier’s Global series aircraft and De Havilland’s Dash 8 turboprop aircraft are manufactured at the Downsview plant.

De Havilland Canada’s Dash 8 program is key to the negiotiations. Andrew Cline Photo

Key priorities in the negotiations include pensions, the future of the Dash 8 program, and issues related to the sale of the Downsview plant by Bombardier in 2018. A major focus for De Havilland is the need to “transform the business” to the current situation the industry is facing.

“Our members are among the most highly skilled workers in the country, building two of the highest quality aircraft products in the world. What we’re looking for is an agreement that reflects that,” the union said.

Yet after “several weeks” of negotiations towards a new collective bargaining agreement, De Havilland expressed disappointment that “the union continued to assert a position that is drastically out of step with the realities facing De Havilland Canada’s business, and the aviation industry more generally.”

The Dash 8 manufacturer said in a July 27 statement:

“The sale of the production site by the previous owner Bombardier in 2018 established deadlines by which the runway must be demolished and the aircraft site vacated. Put simply: from the moment of that land sale, aircraft manufacturing at Downsview was on borrowed time. De Havilland Canada’s owners invested on this basis out of confidence in the long-term potential of the aircraft program, but the company has been clear since the outset that change was inevitable.

“The need to transform has been made more acute by the pandemic, and its severe effects on the global aviation industry. Customer demand for new aircraft has declined severely as global airlines lost approximately US$128 billion in 2020 and are forecasted to lose another US$48 billion in 2021 (according to IATA forecasts).”

Bombardier’s Global series aircraft are manufactured at the Toronto Downsview plant. Here, a Global 7500 returns from a test flight at Downsview Airport. Frederick K. Larkin Photo

In February 2021, De Havilland announced that it would pause Dash 8-400 production at the Downsview plant due to decreased demand.  

The airframe manufacturer said despite the current challenges, it “maintains an optimistic outlook” on both the future of the company and Dash 8 program.

“The sole focus of De Havilland Canada’s transformation efforts is to improve the company’s competitiveness and enhance support to operators of Dash 8 aircraft around the world. The union must play its part in facilitating this transformation.”

The union said it would “remain at the bargaining table” during the longevity of the strike and “continue to make every effort to reach a fair settlement.”

De Havilland said despite the strike action, it plans to continue to meet all customer requirements. “Our leadership and sales teams are in active and ongoing discussions with customers, and De Havilland Canada has continued to invest in product and service innovations to enhance the Dash 8 aircraft’s relevance to customers.”

The company concluded: “As part of the planned evolution of the Dash 8 platform, and pursuant to the sale of the Downsview production site by previous owner Bombardier in 2018, De Havilland Canada has begun preparing to leave the Downsview site in line with the lease expiry in 2021.”

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