Timing and venue for meeting on Afghanistan future still not set Brahimi

Speaking to reporters following a meeting of representatives from countries of the so-called “Group of 21,” Mr. Brahimi, who is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said all members had expressed strong support for the Secretary-General’s proposal to convene a meeting “as soon as possible.”The G-21 is comprised of a broad group of interested nations that have been directly or indirectly affected by the Afghan crisis and could help contribute to its resolution. Asked for details on the preparations, Mr. Brahimi emphasized that discussions were being held with the Afghans “to see where it is more convenient for them to hold this meeting.” He noted that the venue was “not going to be a problem” since several countries had offered to play host, including the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, Germany and Austria. The meeting will bring together members of the Northern Alliance as well as several initiatives on Afghanistan, such as the Rome process, the Cyprus process and the Peshawar Convention, according to Mr. Brahimi. On the timing, the envoy noted that his deputy, Francesc Vendrell, was scheduled to hold talks in Kabul on Saturday. “We are waiting for an answer from the representatives of the Northern Alliance,” Mr. Brahimi added.Concerning the importance of proceeding quickly, he said, “we are very much aware of the necessity of speed – the Secretary-General is more aware than anybody of that – but we will go only as fast as the Afghans are willing to go; unless we have answers and expression of readiness to meet from the Afghans, obviously we cannot meet.”He emphasized that the aim was to meet “as fast as possible, but not faster than possible.” read more

Bombardier bracing for strike after Quebec rail workers reject generous offer

by Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press Posted Nov 22, 2012 5:14 pm MDT MONTREAL – Bombardier is bracing for what could be a lengthy strike at its Quebec railcar assembly plant after workers rejected what the company characterized as a generous offer that raises wages and pension benefits and contained a commitment to invest in new technology.“Don’t worry, we’ve got our contingency plans and we could go a long way,” company spokesman Marc Laforge said Thursday, hours after union members massively rejected Bombardier’s “final” contract offer.He said the company has a long-term vision for the plant and has no immediate plans to transfer work to its other facilities in Thunder Bay, Ont., Plattsburgh, N.Y. and Mexico.But he said Bombardier will meet its commitment to deliver 420 Toronto subway cars and interior finishings for 706 Chicago transit cars. It also has contracts for 100 multi-level New Jersey transit cars, 54 multi-level cars for Maryland transit, along with nearly 500 Montreal Metro cars, which aren’t yet in production.Nearly 90 per cent of the votes cast at a special meeting of the workers at the rail-equipment plant in La Pocatiere, northeast of Quebec City, were against the deal.The six-hour meeting ended early Thursday morning and the results were published by their union, an affiliate of the Confederation of National Trade Unions.Subcontracting, pension and salaries have been the key issues for the 330 workers who have been without a contract since Sept. 30, 2011.The strike, which started Nov. 1, is the first at the plant in 30 years.Laforge said the offer includes a 12.5 per cent wage increase over five years, a $9-million pension plan contribution that would raise employee benefits by 18 per cent and a commitment to invest $3 million in new state-of-the-art laser welding technology that would return some jobs outsourced to the United States.The investment would allow La Pocatiere to make the aluminum roof and sidepanels for the Montreal Metro and other contracts and stop doing less specialized work with carbon steel.He said the company isn’t surprised by the contract rejection given that the union executive and negotiating team recommended such a vote.While Bombardier (TSX:BBD.B) may be willing to make some adjustments, the final contract cost must be within the framework of its last offer, the company said.“The table is set and whatever agreement there is … it’s going to be within what has been put on the table,” Laforge said.“I don’t know how many employees these days are getting a raise of 18 per cent on their pension plan benefits through negotiations. That’s something pretty important and the salary raises that we’re ready to grant stand perfectly with what is given in the industry.”Union president Mario Levesque is disappointed with Bombardier’s hard stand and belief that it can settle in for a long labour dispute. He said the union is prepared to return to the bargaining table at the conciliator’s request but only if the company is willing to negotiate changes.“As soon as we get a call we are ready to sit at the table but not just to sit, we want to negotiate so things advance,” he said in an interview.Levesque also called on the company to respect terms of a 2010 letter of intent that would guarantee hundreds of jobs related to the Montreal Metro contract.“The workers want that their managers act responsibly and respectfully by honouring their signatures from that time.”Laforge said Bombardier has a different interpretation of the work that must be completed at the plant, which is part of an integrated manufacturing model that has the best chance of succeeding against the competition.He added that outsourcing beyond Bombardier Transportation’s network represents just 10 to 15 jobs and suggested the union is trying to move a grievance on the subject, which is slated to be heard next month, into the negotiations.“It (the grievance) has nothing to do with negotiations. They are trying to bring that into negotiations.”Meanwhile, Levesque said the union will respect an injunction granted late Tuesday that limits the number of picketers to 25 and requires unfettered access to the plant by about 200 non-union and management personnel.On the Toronto Stock Exchange, Bombardier’s shares closed up three cents to $3.07 in Thursday trading. Bombardier bracing for strike after Quebec rail workers reject ‘generous’ offer AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more