Even though the doors won’t close for a final time until the end of the year, Friday (Sept. 12) marked the last shift for about 300 junior workers at London’s Kellogg plant.
Approximately 180 workers remain employed for the time being, but it was still a solemn day that several in the community wouldn’t let pass unnoticed.
NDP MPPs Peggy Sattler (London West) and Teresa Armstrong (London-Fanshawe) marked the day by releasing a pair of statements. In each, the two MPPs expressed their feelings of support for the workers while chastising the Ontario government for letting the situation happen in the first place.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of jobs at Kellogg’s today. These were good paying jobs that leave 300 families with an uncertain future after long service to the company,” Sattler said. “Too many jobs have been lost in London and across the province while Premier Kathleen Wynne calls manufacturing job losses a myth. She has yet to announce any specific strategies to help keep manufacturers in Ontario.”
Armstrong expressed similar feelings for the workers let go today and those remaining until the end of the year. She also placed blame squarely on the province’s Liberal government.
“The premier has failed to show leadership to get a real jobs strategy to protect and create jobs here,” Armstrong said. “Instead of helping families keep their jobs in London, she is sitting on her hands while jobs go over to the United States.”
Armstrong added both constituency offices are available for any of the employees, or their families, “who are in need of assistance during this difficult time.”
While the NDP may be a traditional supporter of unionized workers, Patti Dalton knows all too well what the loss of jobs at Kellogg means to the workers and the wider community.
Dalton, president of the London and District Labour Council called the today’s results “heartbreaking” and said the feelings expressed during last December’s closing announcement are just as powerful today.
“This was a shock to the whole community because of the long-time role Kellogg has played in the community, “Dalton said. “You just can’t help but feel heartbroken for what these people are going through.”
Although the job losses at Kellogg and other Ontario manufacturing plants are devastating, Dalton said there is a reason for workers to feel some hope.
Closures to facilities such as Electro Motive Canada, and now Kellogg, are unfortunate trends to be sure, but there are examples of countries that defend “their primary industries and good union jobs.”
Dalton said “the sad part” of such closers are that they are political choices, albeit the wrong ones from her perspective.
However, labour councils and unions across the province “played a key role,” Dalton said, in the so-called Stop Hudak campaign. By standing together and speaking out, Dalton said workers are showing they can still make a difference.
It was union solidarity Dalton said helped “totally quash” what she calls “Tea Party North.” That outcome of the summer’s provincial election was a way, Dalton said, “to revitalize the movement” and show workers they still have a strong voice.
“There were hundreds and hundreds of union members who went to the town hall meetings all across the province. Specifically, there were many young workers who were really inspired by that,” Dalton said. “I think Ontarians and Canadians do understand how important unions are. Unions hold the line across for workplace rights. If we don’t have strong unions, then who is going to hold that line?”
While the provincial Conservatives “have to totally go back to the drawing board in terms of their platform,” Dalton said she believes the Conservative government in Ottawa was watching closely what happened in Ontario.
And although locally the labour council is focused on this fall’s municipal election, next fall’s federal campaign is going to be shaped by union passions.
“The Conservatives have also had a number of pieces of legislation to crack down on union and labour rights, “Dalton said. “We have to fight this very dangerous federal government. I think they have diminished democracy itself.”