No activity at Windsor's wind turbine plant, workers laid off

The grounds are quiet at CS Wind's Anchor Drive location.

'I was one of the last one out of the doors'

The company has locations in Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Turkey and the United Kingdom. (Jason Viau/CBC)

The grounds are quiet at CS Wind's Anchor Drive location.

The company opened its Windsor location in 2011, but also has locations in Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Turkey and the United Kingdom. 

"I was one of the last one out the doors," said ex-employee Jason Deschene. He was told there was a "lack of work" and was laid off in June 2018. 

CBC has been unable to confirm if the business is actually closed. Calls and emails to CS Wind, a Korea-based company, have not been answered.

"We literally worked all last winter without any heat in the building," said Deschene about his last days in the plant.

"We were taking machines apart just to put them back together."

Unionizing may have contributed to slowdown in work

Deschene said he wasn't really let go from CS Wind, just laid off. He thinks the company balked at Canadian operations once the workers unionized. CS Wind first reached a collective bargaining agreement with Iron Workers Local 721 in February 2016.

"From what I've heard, the agreement was that union busters would [make it] so they didn't get a union," said Deschene. 

Greg McLean worked at CS Wind for about five years, with his employment ending in 2018. He said "yes and no" when asked if he thought the union had anything to do with work slowing down.

"No company really wants to have a union join them," said McLean. "But I wouldn't say it was the downfall."

Deschene said his contract would have been due for renewal in February, which he believes is why the company has stayed quiet about whether it is open or not. 

'We saw it coming'

"When it happened, they called everyone to the cafeteria and everyone had to sign paperwork that effective a certain time they'd be done," said McLean, adding that the time was that same afternoon.

McLean assumed there would be no call backs after that lay off — but he wasn't surprised.

"Everybody knew it was going to happen," McLean said, citing the Ontario government's moves to change renewable energy supports and tariffs on steel. 

According to McLean, it was almost a relief to finally get laid off.

"We saw it coming," said McLean about how he felt the day he got laid off. "I don't know how to explain it. The relief ... now there's no more questions about it."

When CS Wind came to southwestern Ontario, McLean said they were told the company would be around for "years."

"Did I think years meant five? No. I was hoping for more like 10 or 15."

CS Wind began operating in Windsor in 2011.

Green energy factories slowly shuttered

In 2017 when a Tillsonburg factory that made blades for wind turbines closed, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said there was a "real risk" the same thing could happen in Windsor.

Four plants were set up in Ontario under a deal with Samsung. In addition to Windsor's CS Wind tower factory, there were also factories in London and Toronto. 

When the Tillsonburg plant closed, employees there also said they "saw it coming," and energy experts said it was "obvious" jobs from the Liberal government's foray into the Green Energy Act were temporary.

Dilkens could not be reached this week for comment regarding the closure of CS Wind. 

'That's business'

McLean said it was frustrating a company who got so much money from the government was able to close up shop so soon.

CS Wind was expected to create about 300-400 skilled job placements when it opened in 2011 after a $40-million announcement in December of 2010. 

Lana Drouillard with the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation said they haven't been informed of any closures and so couldn't comment on the lack of activity at the plant.

"Do we feel they paid back to the community as much as they got out of it? No," said McLean. "But that's business."

However, when CBC News reached out to the province to find out how much taxpayer money that had gone into CS Windsor Canada since its arrival, the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines says there was none.

"Ontario did not enter into any agreements with CS Wind Canada related to their Windsor facility and no funding was provided to CS Wind Canada by the Government of Ontario in relation to the establishment or operation of this facility," says an email from the Ministry.

The email continues to say that the Ministry has had no communication with CS Wind Canada with regards to the Windsor facility.

With files from Jason Viau


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