Workers at a boot manufacturing facility in eastern Newfoundland say they're devastated by the company's decision to shut down production and move the plant to Ontario.
Kodiak Group Holdings announced Tuesday it will cease production this fall at Terra Nova Shoes in Harbour Grace by the end of November.
The 80 people working at the plant will be given severance packages and bonuses to stay on through the fall, but will have to apply for jobs at a new plant in Cambridge, Ont.
Wanda Lynch said she and her colleagues were shocked by the announcement, and many were so upset they left work early.
"I just froze. I said, 'This is not real, it can't be real,'" said Lynch.
"They told us they were closing the plant and I was shocked. I couldn't believe it and everybody else couldn't believe it. It's unbelievable."
"Successful candidates will receive relocation assistance to move," the company said in a statement.
Lynch said she doesn't plan to move to Ontario for work since her home is in Harbour Grace. But she also can't imagine what life will be like once the plant closes.
"Terra Nova Shoes put food on the table, did everything for us. I've been out there 29 years with the same people — it's hard," she said.
"You get used to getting up and going to work every day, and all of a sudden everything is over."
Terra Nova Shoes received an $8-million interest-free loan from the Newfoundland and Labrador government in 2008.
In 2010, however, the company cut 59 jobs at the Conception Bay North plant.
Kodiak, which bought Terra Nova Shoes in 2005, said Tuesday it is "honouring all monies it received" via the interest-free loan.
Government worked to get company to stay
Innovation, Business and Rural Development Minister Susan Sullivan said she is confident government will get the money back from the company.
"We're very well secured on those loans, so we're not very concerned about that," Sullivan said.
"We're in the process now of working with the companies in negotiating a way forward to recoup those monies."
She said the province put a lot of work into enticing the company to keep Terra Nova open, but without success.
"It's very disappointing for us," she said. "We've been working with the company over the last few days to try to see if there's anything that we can do to encourage them to stay, but it seems they've made up their minds, that this is not a place they are able to do business."
The company said it has become too expensive to manufacture the footwear in Newfoundland and then ship them to Ontario for distribution. The plant in Harbour Grace was built in 1971.
"The reality is the high costs to continue operating the Harbour Grace plant have become unsustainable over the past several years," Kodiak president Kevin Huckle said in a statement.
"We care deeply about everyone who has worked hard in Harbour Grace to make Terra a world-class brand, which is why we are encouraging our employees to apply for opportunities at the new facility in Cambridge," he said.
"We've made sure their severance packages go beyond what is required and we are offering bonuses for workers to stay until the plant ceases operations."