Unifor occupies Northstar Aerospace plant in Milton to challenge pension shortfall

Unifor has occupied the Northstar Aerospace plant located at 180 Market Drive‎, Milton, according to Unifor president Jerry Dias.

In a letter sent to members this morning, Dias said the early-morning action was taken as a result of the company's continued failure to address a significant shortfall in the pension plan after Northstar announced in January it was closing the plant.

"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, Unifor National President. "There is no financial reason for refusing to fund the plan.The only excuse is corporate greed."

Without additional funding from the company, the shortfall will lead to a 24 per cent reduction in pension benefits, the union said, an average reduction of $211 a month. This will affect both future retirees and those already on a fixed income.

Northstar Aerospace say they will close the Milton plant at the end of September when they relocate to Chicago. The plant has been open at their current location since 1993, where skilled workers create parts for aircraft and helicopters, including the Boeing AH-64E Apache.

The company says the closure is the result of losing the contract for the gears on the Apache helicopters and denies responsibility for the pension shortfall. 

“Heligear promised to continue contributions to the plan beginning in 2012, but did not have the resources to accept responsibility for the consequences of prior years of poor management by the previous company,” the company said in a statement published in the Milton Champion.

Unifor says the decision to occupy the plant comes after eight months of seeking a resolution on retiree benefits for members of Local 112.

"We have 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, Unifor Local 112 President. "After months the company has refused to discuss the matter. Time is running out — Northstar needs to do the right thing."

Unifor is tweeting updates under the hastag #OccupyNorthstar and welcomes members and the general public to join them outside the plant to show their support.

“We are calling on all local unions and Unifor staff to recruit as many activists, members and others to attend the picket,” Dias said. “Our objective is to maintain around-the-clock picket coverage. We would appreciate any and all immediate support you can provide.”

Aug 12 update: Unifor decided to end Occupy NorthStar on Day 3 after cease and desist issued. Unifor says it will continue to fight to secure pensions for workers.