The union representing the employees of Northstar Aerospace has taken over the facility in Milton.
According to Unifor, Northstar Aerospace is relocating the equipment from its Milton facility to Chicago and Windsor and closing the Milton plant. They allege the company is refusing to meet a 25 per cent pension shortfall for current and future retirees.
The union says that based on the type of pension plan in place, Northstar is not legislatively required to compensate for the shortfall. But Unifor National President Jerry Dias says given the company’s considerable resources, they should.
“This plant is owned by Wynnchurch Capital, a major private equity company … (they) certainly have the financial resources to treat our members with respect.”
A statement provided to CityNews from Heligear Canada Acquisition Co., which owns the Milton facility, they say the planned closure of the facility was due to the loss of “a major quantity of customer work” which left the plant no longer viable.
Dias says Unifor and Local 112 have attempted negotiations with Northstar since January to ensure that current pension provisions and benefits are protected. The company has allegedly refused to discuss the matter.
The union took over the facility at around 3:30 a.m. on Thursday morning. More than 250 people have set up picket lines outside the plant and more are expected to join the protest.
“We know realistically that they aren’t going to keep this place open, so we are after having our pensions funded the way it should be and we’re here for the long haul,” said Scott McLimoyle, President of Local 112.
Dias says that for employees who have been retired for several years, a sudden steep reduction in pension is “completely unacceptable.”
“The fact that they are nonchalant about our current retirees taking a 25 per cent reduction is outrageous,” said Dias. “These are some of the wealthiest private equity companies in the world … for them the pension shortfall is nickels and dimes, but it’s not nickels and dimes to the people that depend on it for basic survival.”
Mohan worked at the Milton plant for 37 years. He retired two years ago and says after decades of working there, the treatment from the company is unreasonable.
“They are taking quite a bit away from us now, and some of us have been here for 37, even 40 years. They have enough money to pay us or to put the money into it, no problem. But they (North Star) won’t even talk to the union, they said ‘this is the book, take it or leave it’,” he said
Al spent 16 years at the plant and also retired two years ago. He says the pension from Northstar is all he has.
“Once you retire, you put your time in, you’re totally dependent on what income you get out of that pension. So to take a 25 per cent cut at 67? It’s a no brainer. How can you compensate for that? You can’t. It’s too late, I’m out.”
Heligear countered the union’s claims, saying it has made every payment required in its negotiated collective agreement with the union.
“Heligear has not proposed any reduction of pension benefits,” said Greg Harper, Vice President of Human Resources for Heligear. “Any reduction or shortfall is a function of the plan management and design, which are not within Heligear’s control.”
Heligear also called the union’s seizure of the plant “a desperate attempt to shift responsibility from Unifor to Heligear, through force” adding it is pursuing legal remedies to recover control of the facility.
Heligear also expressed concern for the safety of the facility and people within the building, saying the seizure prevented “an orderly and safe shut-down of equipment and processes operating within the facilty.”