By Daniel Tseghay
On Monday, November 26, Maple Leaf Foods announced it would be closing three poultry facilities in Ontario employing hundreds of members of both United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 175 and Local 1006A.
By 2021, the St. Marys plant, employing 485 Local 175 members will close. And by 2022, the Brampton plant, with its 324 Local 175 members, will shut down alongside the Toronto plant which employs 680 Local 1006A members.
“Even though it’s a few years off, getting news a month before Christmas that your job is disappearing will naturally cause people some concern,” said Tim Deelstra, Engagement & Media Relations Strategist for Local 175, in an interview with Rankandfile.ca
Maple Leaf Foods said they’re consolidating their operations by opening a new facility in London, Ontario by the spring of 2021. The facility, that should employ about 1,450 workers, and costing roughly $660 million, will be funded with help from both the federal and the provincial government. The federal government is giving Maple Leaf Foods $20 million, and Ontario is giving $34.5 million for the new plant.
“The company says they’re going to work to try to find some kind of transition for employees, including potentially having them move to this new facility or to other Maple Leaf facilities in Ontario but we don’t have details about that yet,” said Deelstra about the discussions that are now underway between the company and the union. “Our intent will be to save as many good unionized jobs as we can for our members.”
St. Marys Mayor, Al Strathdee, expressed concern over what this means for workers forced to consider commuting or relocating to nearby London. “If you have a kid in daycare or all these type of things, it can mean a total lifestyle change so it’s very disappointing,” he was quoted as saying by Global News. He continued by noting the prioritizing of bigger cities over rural towns.
“Certainly as this new plant is going to receive significant provincial and federal funding it will be our intent to go talk to politicians of all stripes to talk about the human impact of this too,” said Deelstra. “If they’re prepared to invest in Maple Leaf they should also be prepared to invest in Ontario’s constituents.”