Ottawa

Smiths Falls will fight to keep Hershey plant open, mayor vows

Smiths Falls will do "everything in our power" to keep Hershey's chocolate plant going, Mayor Dennis Staples vowed Friday, after the company announced it may close the factory in the eastern Ontario town.

Smiths Falls will do "everything in our power" to keep Hershey's chocolate plant going, Mayor Dennis Staples vowed Friday, after the company announced it may close the factory in the eastern Ontario town.

Losing the factory, which employs 400 people, would be "a huge, huge challenge for a small community of 9,000," Staples said.

Headded that the company has already cut 100 jobs in his community in the past 15 months and the town is losing 830 jobs with the closure of the Ontario government's Rideau Regional Centre for the developmentally disabled.

"Whatever is required to keep Hershey or any other business in our community, we're open to that," Staples said, noting that the decision to close is not yet final. "And we'll do everything in our power to keep employment in this community."

Company spokesman Kirk Savilleannounced the potential closure earlier Friday.

"We have advised our employees and the union of the very high probability that the Smiths Falls plant will close," he said, reading from a statement.

"I can confirm that the company has expressed its willingness to resume negotiation in order to reach a contract settlement and to discuss the effects of the potential closure on our employees."

Savilleaddedthat the company will keep employees updated with new information.

The statement followed Thursday's announcement that the Hershey Co. will cut about 1,500 jobs from its workforce of 13,000, reducing production lines by more than one-third, outsourcing some productionandbuilding a factory inMexico as part of a three-year restructuring plan.

Thisis the second recent hardship faced by employees at the plant, which was shut down for nearly a month starting Nov.9 after a routine inspection of the plant detected salmonella, the bacterium that causes food poisoning.

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