Unionised assembly workers and other technicians at Airbus’s A220 manufacturing site near Montreal are orchestrating work disruptions after voting down an employment contract proposed by the manufacturer.

Members of the Local 712 division of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers are applying “pressure tactics” at the Mirabel site in Quebec, a union representative said on 18 March.

The move comes after Airbus proposed wage gains that failed to reflect the erosion of buying power resulting from several years of high inflation, the union adds.

Airbus_QantasLink A220_Mid Fuse in Mirabel pre-FAL (3)

Source: Qantas

The unfinished fuselage frame, in MIrabel, of an A220 due for delivery to Qantas

The labour tension comes amid a broad effort by Airbus to boost A220 production to 14 jets monthly by 2026, and to make the programme profitable. Airbus acquired majority ownership of the programme in 2018 from Bombardier.

Union members – a group of some 1,200 assembly workers, painters, quality inspectors and other technicians – are “taking longer” to complete tasks in Mirabel and are wearing shirts promoting their cause. The union has not implemented a work stoppage, and hopes to avoid a general strike, the representative adds.

Union leaders and Airbus managers are meeting on 18 March for another bout of negotiations.

“We continue to follow the negotiation process,” Airbus tells FlightGlobal. “We are back at the negotiation table today. We’re confident that we’ll be able to continue talking and reach an agreement.”

The union’s current employment contract took effect in 2019 and expired on 1 December last year. On 17 March, the union said 99.6% of voting members rejected an Airbus offer, and that 98.9% voted in favour of a strike mandate, which grants the union power to call a general strike.

“Members were insulted to see that the proposed increases didn’t even compensate for the loss of purchasing power caused by inflation in recent years,” says union representative Eric Rancourt.

Sticking points also involve provisions related to holidays, work schedules, job guarantees, pensions and insurance.

“To build 14 planes a month, Airbus needs to focus on engaging existing workers,” Rancourt adds. “At this stage, the employer is unfortunately losing that commitment, and that’s priceless.”

Airbus calls the union strike-mandate vote part of a formal labour process in Quebec and stresses that the mandate does not mean the union will call a strike.

“Airbus takes the commitment of its employees to heart and remains committed to reconciling the interests of our employees with the economic imperatives of the A220,” the company adds.

Airbus has for several years pledged by 2026 to be producing 14 A220s monthly, including 10 from its primary facility in Mirabel and four from its newer site in Mobile, Alabama.

Production has a long way to go. Airbus delivered an average of less than six A220s monthly in 2023, its data shows.