Striking aerospace workers rally in Toronto

On strike against their billionaire owner for more than four weeks, the workers who produce the iconic Dash 8 turboprop plane staged a rally outside the De Havilland production facility in Toronto this morning.

The lease on the company’s Downsview plant is set to expire and workers fear parent company Longview Aviation Capital is looking to move production to Calgary.

Longview, which acquired the Dash 8 program from Bombardier in late 2018, is owned by Thomson family heir Sherry Brydson, whose estimated net worth is US$13.9 billion.

“This employer has promised that the Dash has a future in the post-pandemic economy,” said Lana Payne, national secretary-treasurer for Unifor, the union that represents the 700 striking workers. “All our members here are asking is that they are included in that future.”

Donna Day, a member of Unifor Local 673 who has worked at the De Havilland site for 35 years, told the rally she was having difficulty looking after her family due to the strike.

“I don’t have the benefit of a second income,” the single mother said. “Many of us are depressed and struggling.”

The company has shown an unwillingness to listen to workers and has repeatedly broken off scheduled communications with the union, Day said.

Unifor national president Jerry Dias, who began his career at the Downsview plant in 1976, vowed to fight any changes that would harm De Havilland workers.

He also blasted a legal injunction issued against the union.

“Today is about saying that, you may have made a ruling, but we’re not going to sit back idly and let our jobs leave this province,” Dias said.

“We’re dealing with a company that has no moral compass,” he said. “But what they don’t have is our desire and our commitment.”

In a written statement to the Sidebar, De Havilland Canada said it is “focussed on creating a sustainable, long-term future for the Dash 8 program and the employment it supports. But fundamental change is required in order to sustain the program. The need to transform the Dash 8 aircraft business dates back several years, prior to the pandemic, and prior to De Havilland Canada’s acquisition of the program.”

The company said the Downsview production site was sold by previous owner Bombardier in 2018, putting manufacturing there “on borrowed time.”

“Despite the near-term challenges, De Havilland Canada maintains an optimistic outlook on its future and the future of Dash 8 [sic] program,” the statement said. “However, the company cannot and will not rush to a decision on future production location [sic], nor negotiate a site plan in public.”

The rally was streamed on Unifor’s Facebook page.

(Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include De Havilland Canada’s statement.)