This is an important update. The Henniges Automotive Plant in Welland is closing. I'm almost speechless because this is another plant closure so close to a federal election. Last time around my dad lost his job at John Deere, this time the countdown is on for my mother. This will make both of them out of work, with outstanding disabilites, and few skills to reenter the modern workforce.
The last two times the Welland plant was in trouble a new investor or owner appeared. Once General Tire, then GenCorp, then GDX Automotive, and most recently Henniges. Cerberus Capital Management bought out GDX in the same way they did Chrysler in the last decade.
In the 80s the success of the Welland plant led to workers lending their strength to the union, especially during the 1983 strike. Today the workers are old, the result of layoffs in a seniority system. The workers are quiet except for a few who are told to shut up (at least during the union meetings) if they want to work the last couple months. The plant has been defeated. The factory will close.
When GenCorp was considering closure (rumours) some of the workers considered taking their protest across the border to their Michigan HQ. There were some plans that would only end in being deported from the United States. That spirit could return, but the Henniges HQ appears to be in Europe... nobody has money to go to Europe.
The blame isn't pointed only at Henniges. The Auto Industry has failed a new generation. Very few of the employees (adult) children have bought a new car. Some have never owned a car at all. Even I thought about getting a vehicle. Here are the figures: Used van $6000, Insurance $4000/Year (Van, -25, Clean Record), and Gas was $1.30/Litre in September 2005. Those numbers never left my mind.
Hopefully the plant can be saved, along with its existing employees by some other rubber products manufacturer. Solar panels for water, Rubber shells for Electronics, Building Materials, or something I never imagined. They used to make magnets and hockey pucks. Maybe its time to diversify before killing a community.
On a personal note: My immediate family relies on income from there. This is bad and this time my mother will be out of work at Henniges, or as she calls it "Heninges".
I make less than a quarter of what my parents made just five years ago. I cannot cover their debts and bankruptcy means they would lose nearly everything they worked for and enjoyed. Losing a $58,000 house, when I hear about people buying $750,000 townhouses in Toronto's Battery Park.
I wish there was some type of insurance against this. EI isn't working for many of the older John Deere employees. CPP doesn't help unless you are 65+ years old. Family, as I mentioned, isn't faring much better. Protect people from companies marching around with the "It's not personal, it's just business" mantra. To a business it's just business, and to a person it is personal. Things just got 'personal'.
Update (June 2011): Henniges has been hiring some younger temporary workers, in many cases these hires are related to other Henniges employees. Seems like a good way to boost production and give the families a chance to transition with moderate financial security.