London’s beleaguered manufacturing sector is taking another hit with the announcement Wednesday by Ohio-based Invacare Corp. that its shutting down its London plant that makes long-term-care beds and cutting the 70 workers.
“We will treat them fairly. As you know these are difficult decisions because those associates have worked so hard,” company spokesperson Lara Mahoney said Wednesday.
The London bed production is being outsourced to an unnamed third party and the furnishings production moved to an Invacare plant in Sanford, Fla.
Invacare will work out severance packages for the workers over the next couple of weeks. The workers are represented by Local 27 of Unifor, Mahoney said.
The shutdown announcement caught the union by surprise.
Jim Wilkes, financial secretary with Local 27, said the union and company have been in negotiations for a new contract and bargaining appeared to be going well. Company officials had praised the workforce for productivity and efficiency, he said.
“We thought we were very close to an agreement. It came out of the blue to us.”
Unifor will try to arrange a meeting with Invacare Thursday and explore what can be done to save the plant. If that isn’t possible, the union will negotiate severance packages, Wilkes said.
“Honestly, I don’t think these decisions are made quickly or without a lot of thought.”
Progressive Conservative labour critic Monte McNaughton said it’s another sad day for the people of London and the region.
McNaughton said the announcement underlines the need for a change in Ontario labour laws to improve the economic environment for business investment.
“The status quo is failing, and we need a provincial government with a plan to bring back these manufacturing jobs to Ontario,” said McNaughton, who represents the riding of Lambton-Kent-Middlesex.
London West NDP MPP Peggy Sattler said the plant shutdown is a big blow to families.
“This is devastating for the men and women who work at the plant and an entire community that’s seen good jobs vanish as plants like Invacare and Kellogg’s announce closures.”
No firm date has been set for the shutdown of the plant at 994 Hargrieve Rd. in south London, but it will be in mid-2014, Mahoney said.
Purchased in 2003 from Carroll Healthcare, the London plant manufactures both long-term-care beds and furnishings for long-term-care facilities.
Company president Gerald Blouch said in a statement the company regrets the impact the decision will have on the London workers, but the move is important for the company’s long-term health.
The company reported a loss of $51 million in 2013, up from a loss of $11.1 the year before.
Invacare estimates the shutdown will cost at least $3.5 million US.
Headquartered in Elyria, Ohio, Invacare has 5,400 employees and markets a series of medical products, including wheelchairs and scooters. It’s long-term-care medical products are sold in 80 countries.
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Plant closings announced in Southwestern Ontario in past 12 months and number of jobs
- Invacare Corp., London, 70
- Heinz, Leamington, 740
- Kellogg, London, 500
- Worthington Cylinders, Tilbury, 100
- Wescast Industries, Strathroy, 40
- Imperial Oil’s lubricants operation, Sarnia, 60
- Ethyl Corp., Corunna, 30