Heinz, union reach closure agreement in Leamington

H.J. Heinz Co. and the United Commercial Food Workers Union have reached a closure agreement at its Leamington plant.

UCFW members get 52 weeks of healthcare, $2,500 productivity bonus and severance pay

The H.J. Heinz Co. announced on Wednesday that it has sold its Leamington facility to Highbury Canco, an Ontario company that will use the facility to package food for Heinz. (CBC File Photo)

H.J. Heinz Co. and the United Commercial Food Workers Union have reached a closure agreement at its Leamington plant.

UCFW Local 459 president Rob Crawford said the plant will official close June 27. He said there will be no layoffs between now and at least May.

Unionized employees who will be out of work will get two weeks pay for every year worked, a $2,500 productivity bonus and 52 weeks of healthcare benefits.

"I think it's a fair deal. It will give people an opportunity to get them through to the next job," Crawford."The feeling at Heinz right now is somewhat relief the process is over. It's not too bad in there right now."

Crawford called the closure agreement negotiations "very emotional."

"Everyone at the table had some skin in the game," Crawford said. "We did get through it though."

There is a meeting with the membership at a later date but the deal doesn't have to be ratified, according to Crawford.

"We've accepted this offer," Crawford said. "There's no more money there. There's nothing left to get."

Crawford said "the shock has passed" in Leamington.

"Everyone's going to work every day," he said. "But they're sad the plant is closing."

Nearly 800 full-time employees will be out of work when the 104-year-old plant closes.

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, along with 3G Capital, bought H.J. Heinz Co. for $23.3 billion US in 2013.
Buffet called the Leamington operation "an unprofitable plant."

Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa on Thursday called the closure “unfortunate.”

He was in the region conducting pre-budget consultations.

“It’s all the more reason we have to look forward," Sousa said of the Heinz closure. "We need to be competitive and invest in those things that make us value added.

"We’re looking to other industries to make up the difference."

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