PETERBOROUGH- They never saw it coming according to the union. “We are shocked.” Bill Corp told Kawartha 411. “We are all just absorbing the news right now.”
The news that General Electric will be closing the Peterborough manufacturing plant was delivered to employees this morning. “It’s not a good day.” Corp says. Corp is President of Unifor 524 the union representing employees at the Peterborough plant. He says they had no idea this was coming.
The company plans to wind down the operation over the next 12 months putting 358 people out of a job. The plant will close in the fall of 2018. 50 employees in the engineering services division will remain. The company told Kawartha 411 it was a tough decision, one that was based on market conditions. ” The global demand for what we produce here is down and continues to be down.” Kim Warburton, GE Canada, told Kawartha 411. “Volume is down 60%.”The plant was making large motors for the commodity market. Production will now shift to places such a Brazil and Mexico.
Corp agreed the market has been soft but they did not expect the plant to close. All employees were sent home for the day but will be back on Monday. The union says it will be continuing talks with the company.
The Peterborough Labour Council says the closure will have a ripple effect. “It’s going to have a big impact. For every job lost the number of people effected is double or triple that amount.” Marion Burton, Co-chair Peterborough Labour Council told Kawartha 411. “Finding jobs that will pay at that level with a benefit package is going to be hard to find.”
Pensions are safe according to Warburton and the company is offering skills training and interview skills training and also helping with retirement planning. There’s no word on any severance packages. Warburton says the decision to close the plant does not reflect on the employees. ” This is no reflection of the great people and how hard they have worked in this plant. We will do everything we can over the next 12 months to help them.”
Peterborough MPP Jeff leal weighed in on the closure this afternoon saying “I am saddened and disappointed to learn that GE will be ceasing manufacturing at its Peterborough facility. My thoughts are with the affected workers, their families, and our community, and I am determined to work with GE to ensure employees are supported.”
Leal’s father worked at the plant for 40 years. “I grew up in South Peterborough, a neighbourhood that was home to many GE employees and their families. Throughout our shared 125-year history, both the company and Peterborough have lived through highs and lows, but our community has always stood together in times of need. I am confident that GE will do their best to work towards a smooth transition for their workers and their facility.”
Hundreds of current and former employees blame the company for their cancers and are are fighting for compensation from WSIB. They have stepped up efforts recently and some expressed concern in the past that GE might close the plant to avoid liability for the illnesses. Warburton told Kawartha 411 that is not the case. ” This was a business decision. We will continue to cooperate with the WSIB. ”
General Electric has been in Peterborough since 1899. In the 60’s the company employed almost 6000 people in Peterborough.