Unions representing workers at the Bombardier factory in Brugge have blocked external contractors and suppliers from entering the site since Friday to put pressure on the company’s international management to have trams, ordered by the Brussels transport company (the STIB), produced at their plant. The unions say the management of the Canadian transportation equipment manufacturer is reportedly thinking of having the trams produced in Vienna, whereas Brugge is the best financial option.
Following its restructuring last year, the Brugge plant needed a long-term contract like that of the Stib.
The STIB recently ordered 175 trams from Bombardier, which represents a 12-year contract, and the unions hope that Brugge is chosen by the company’s management to execute it.
“According to an internal consultation in Brugge and at the European level, it appears that our site has the best economic advantages,” said Steven Bogaert of the Algemeen Christelijk Vakverbond (ACV – Confederation of Christian Trade Unions).
The company’s senior management is reportedly looking at the Vienna plant because it specialises in producing trams. Generally, management want Bombardiers’ various plants to specialize in specific tasks.
However, the unions feel staff in Brugge have enough experience with such orders. “In the past, we also manufactured vehicles for De Lijn,” Bogaert said.
The worried workers at the Brugge plant have thus taken industrial action since Friday to put additional pressure on management. They have not been allowing external contractors, staff from Bombardier plants abroad or suppliers to enter the site. “That disrupts the production chain, although staff continue to work,” Bogaert explained.
He expects a response from management this week, while the agreement on the production site for the Stib order is reportedly expected next week.