New Brunswick

Maple Leaf workers shocked by cuts

Meat plant workers in Moncton are still in shock over the news that Maple Leaf Foods is closing their facility, says the union's national representative.

Meat plant workers in Moncton are still in shock over the news that Maple Leaf Foods is closing their facility, says the union's national representative.

The 460 workers were told on Wednesday that the company plans to wind down the whole operation by 2014 as part of a plan to simplify its distribution network.

"Pretty devastating for the workers," said Carl Flanagan, of the United Food and Commercial Workers.

"All along we'd been working and told by local management that this was one of the plants that was gonna survive."

Flanagan said the company just invested about $4 million on a new roof and new bacon lines. The company also brought in 35 new workers in recent months, he said.

A shock

"So it was pretty much a shock to us to get the announcement," Flanagan said.

Adam Horsman has been working at the plant for 13 years and thought the business was in good shape.

"They've been dumping money into the plant. We weren't expecting them to close it down. The membership's taking it pretty hard. To be honest with you, it hasn't really set in yet."

Horsman said he doesn't know what his plan is.

"There's a lot of people there that are over 50 years old ... so they're scared and the young people are scared also," said Yves Leger, who's worked there for 12 years.

Mayor George LeBlanc said he's keen to work with Maple Leaf to help workers adjust.

"We'll do whatever we can to try to cushion the blow, to see if there are ways we can assist to make things better and hopefully find opportunities for those who are losing their jobs."

Norm Sabapathy, a company spokesman, said the workers shouldn't have been surprised by the decision to close the facility.

"We have talked to our employees many times in advance to tell them that, you know, in our manufacturing network today, to be more competitive and to reduce our costs, to be North American competitive, we have too many smaller plants producing too many products," he said.

"So employees knew that. And we did extensive analysis on our network and this is the result of that."

Maple Leaf said a total of 1,550 jobs will be cut at four distribution centres across Canada. Burlington, Kitchener and Coquitlam facilities will also be closed.

A new, purpose-built facility in Ontario will service eastern Canada, while an existing facility in Saskatoon will serve as the western hub.

The Toronto-based company, which processes meats and other foods, is investing about $560 million in upgrades to boost competitiveness and profitability.

Sabapathy has said the company will seek alternative uses for the affected plants to try to create employment opportunities.