A new Montreal metro car is unveiled at Bombardier Transport, Monday, November 25, 2013 in La Pocatiere, Que. The railway division of Bombardier Inc. says losing out on a large electric train contract in Montreal may force it to lay off workers this fall at its plant in La Pocatiere, Que., unless it wins some new contracts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Bombardier may lay off hundreds at its Quebec railway plant if no orders come in

MONTREAL — The railway division of Bombardier Inc. says losing out on a large electric train contract in Montreal may force it to lay off workers this fall at its plant in La Pocatiere, Que., unless it wins some new contracts.

Spokesman Eric Prud’homme describes the situation for the facility as perilous once the contract to make new subway cars for Montreal’s metro system ends.

He says it is “five after midnight” for the plant over the next 12 months, putting at least half of the plant’s 600 jobs on the line.

Local elected officials and workers are calling for an emergency meeting with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard on the future of the plant.

“The contract for the 468 Azur cars (the Montreal metro) ends in November and 300 people could be laid off if nothing is done,” La Pocatiere Mayor Sylvain Hudon said in a news conference.

He was joined by Yvon Souci, head of the Kamouraska region, and Mario Guignard, president of the Bombardier union in La Pocatiere.

They asked Couillard Monday to update his recent comments that there would soon be work and other contracts for this site, even though Bombardier was not selected for the contracts of the Metropolitan Express Network (REM).

The Quebec multinational was excluded from the contract to supply trains, which was won by a consortium involving Alstom Transport Canada and a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin.

No local content requirement was set by CDPQ Infra, the subsidiary of Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec, which is leading the $6.3-billion project.

Bombardier also lost out last year on a contract to build cars for Montreal’s commuter transportation network, which ordered 24 new train cars from the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation after lowering Canadian content requirements to 15 per cent from 25 per cent in prior contracts.

The company hopes that the next provincial budget, expected to be tabled in March, will contain good news.

“As far as the Azur are concerned, only half of the car fleet has been replaced,” said Prud’Homme. “(A contract) for 50 per cent of MR-73 cars could be an option. “

However, the Montreal Transit Corporation (STM) said that it did not plan to acquire rolling stock in the “short term.”

“We have chosen to extend the life of the MR-73 metro cars by 20 years, for a replacement scheduled for 2036,” said spokesman Philippe Dery.

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