(MILTON, ON) – Members of the Unifor labour union have taken over the Milton operations of a company that has a local operation. Unifor members say they are now in control of the Northstar Aerospace facility in Milton and are demanding that the company fund what they say is a 24 per cent pension deficit.
Although the company plans to close its Milton facility, it will maintain operations at a unit it has in Tecumseh, where it manufactures aircraft gears and transmissions.
The action in Milton is expected to send, “… 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, Unifor’s national president.
In his view, there is, “… no financial reason for refusing to fund the plan. The only excuse is corporate greed.”
Northstar’s parent company, Heligear Acquisition Company, in a statement sent to the Canadian Campion newspaper in Milton and published on insidehalton.com, says it is, “… pursuing legal remedies to regain control of its Milton facility.”
The company says Unifor is without a, “… legal basis to hold Heligear responsible and its illegal action to seize control of the Milton facility is a desperate attempt to shift responsibility from Unifor to Heligear through force instead.”
The company added, “Heligear has not proposed any reduction of pension benefits. Any reduction or shortfall is a function of the plan management and design, which are not within Heligear’s control.”
Dias says that after announcing the re-location of its Milton facility’s equipment to Chicago and Windsor, Northstar refused to meet the 24 per cent pension short fall for workers facing job loss. In its statement, Heligear says the pension fund was underfunded when it bought the bankrupt company a number of years ago.
“Unifor has attempted to negotiate a closure agreement to protect current pension provisions and benefits,” said Dias. “This short fall will affect future and current retirees, some of whom are already on a fixed income after having worked at the facility for more than 40 years.”
At this point, Unifor has, “… stopped production at this facility until Northstar holds up its end of a commitment, a commitment to the workers who have made this company flourish,” said Scott McIlmoyle, the plant’s local Unifor president.
The occupation began at 4:00am yesterday and continues. Unifor members and supporters plan to demonstrate around the clock.
Neither Unifor nor Northstar have released any information on how the union’s demonstration could impact Windsor or other Northstar operations in the United States. However, Heligear did say unimpeded flow of its products is critical to the supply agreements it has with its customers.