Crookston's New Flyer plant, union reach 5-year agreement

New Flyer Industries, Inc., based in Winnipeg, announced Wednesday that it has reached a new five-year contract agreement with its workers at the Crookston bus-making plant that belong to a local union.

New Flyer Industries, Inc., based in Winnipeg, announced Wednesday that it has reached a new five-year contract agreement with its workers at the Crookston bus-making plant that belong to a local union.

Officials of Winnipeg-based New Flyer - which under its U.S. subidiary, New Flyer in America, is one of Crookston's major employers - said members of the Communication Workers of America still need to ratify the agreement during a vote Friday. The current contract expires Dec. 31.

No terms of the new contract were released by New Flyer. But union leaders said they would recommend members approve it, according to a company news release.

Janice Harper, a Winnipeg spokeswoman for New Flyer, said the company has about 2,300 total employees. The Crookston plant, which does final assembly on buses, has about 300 employees, about two-thirds of them in the CWA bargaining unit, Harper said.

She would not discuss terms of the tentative contract agreement because she said it hadn't been voted on yet by union members.


A state union official said the St. Cloud plant has a separate contract. with

Crookston city officials say New Flyer is one of the top five employers in the city of nearly 8,000, after Riverview Health -- which includes the hospital and other medical services -- the public school district, the University of Minnesota-Crookston campus and American Crystal Sugar's processing plant.

New Flyer also has manufacturing plants in St. Cloud, Minn., and Elkhart, Ind., as well as its main plant in Winnipeg.

It says it's the largest manufacturer of heavy-duty transit vehicles, or buses, in North America.

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, 17 administrative workers were laid off this month at the Winnipeg facility, as well as 32 union-member employees.

Paul Soubry, president and CEO of New Flyer, said the layoff notices went out Dec. 6. The Free Press said Soubry blamed "softened" bus orders.

There have been no layoffs at the Crookston plant this year, Harper said.

The Crookston bus plant was built in the mid-1990s and has paid off all loans from the Crookston Housing and Economic Development Authority, executive director Dan Johanneck said.


The plant's administrative leadership has changed a lot recently, for the better, he said.

"They are actually a company with a lot of change, from an administrative leadership perspective and they have really stepped up in the last year, with the structure of their administration and the whole mindset, and are taking a much more active role in the community," Johanneck said.

This fall, New Flyer officials in Winnipeg reported a 15.9 percent decline in revenue for the third quarter and projections for a 10 percent decline in demand over the next two years, the Free Press reported.

A main reason given is the difficult financial times many cities and other local governments are going through across North America, making buying new transit buses lower priorities right now.

The city of Grand Forks, however, touted its purchase this summer of four new New Flyer buses, including two of the $550,000 diesel/electric motor hybrids that give off fewer fumes.

The other two new buses are $325,000 diesel buses. Federal stimulus funds paid most of the cost, with the city picking up $116,000 per bus, the Herald reported this summer.

New Flyer says it leads the industry in new, "green" power, with "clean" or bio, diesel engines, the use of natural gas as a fuel and the diesel/electric and gas/electric hybrids.

According to The Canadian Press a month ago, New Flyer reported it lost $3.1 million in the third quarter ended Oct. 3, compared with a net loss of $9.2 million for the same three-month period a year ago.


Revenue from bus manufacturing in the third quarter decreased 17.7 percent to $228.7 million from $278 million a year earlier, mainly due to lower average bus prices and a decrease in deliveries, the company said.

In August, the company announced a $216 million deal to build buses for New York City and said it could lead to much more business in the Big Apple.

The deal means the company's U.S. subsidiary, New Flyer of America, will build 135 compressed natural gas buses, with options for up to 340 more, for New York, New York.

Earlier this fall, New Flyer of America won a fight with Polk County to get its main Crookston plant's taxable value lowered by more than half, from $5.14 million to $2.05 million.

At the same time, the new assessment raised the taxable value on New Flyer's "express" facility in the former Coca Cola plant to $570,000 from $484,200.

The net effect is about $65,000 less in tax revenue to the city, a significant blow, city officials said, according to the Crookston Daily Times.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to .

What To Read Next
Get Local