Action centre gives Sterling workers hope for the future

Posted by Ian
“You made the mistake, why should we suffer. Why should the
people of St. Thomas suffer, the taxpayers as well as the employees?”
Fighting words from Maurice Beaudry aimed across the bow of top brass at Daimler AG, the parent company of the soon-to-close Sterling Truck plant.And Maurice knows of what he speaks, because in his former position as manager of the Economic Development Corporation in the early 1990s, he played a leading role in convincing Freightliner to locate in St. Thomas. Read his full comments at Maurice Beaudry speaks out .

And below, an update on how workers are coping with the plant scheduled to be shuttered this spring.

© Copyright 2008, Sun Media Corporation
St. Thomas truck plant will close in March

The way Rob Belore sees it, there is some hope.

As Sterling Truck in St. Thomas prepares for its March shutdown, its action centre is helping laid-off workers find a job or go back to school.

During recent weeks, the centre has hosted dozens of businesses and organizations that have made pitches to its workforce.

“I think if a worker is willing to put forward the effort . . . there is work out there,” said Belore, a manager at the plant. “This is great way for people to explore what their options are, what is out there for future employment.”

The Action Centre at 41 Mondamin St. in downtown St. Thomas has been helping workers since last year when it opened following a layoff of 700 Sterling employees.

An additional 600 workers were laid off in November. Daimler Trucks announced in October the 700 remaining workers will lose their jobs when the plant is shut in March.

The action centre has been busy since October, said Monica Shurgold, chairperson of the committee that runs the centre.

During recent weeks the centre has hosted the OPP, RCMP, the Armed Forces, Greyhound Bus, Mississauga Kennedy Transport, other area manufacturers, service and hospitality industries and Oil Field Connections from Alberta that’s looking for pipeline workers.

In addition, the centre has offered sessions about opening a small business and information about retraining programs.

“Several hundred” Sterling workers have found work or entered into retraining, Shurgold said, but there is a long way to go to aid all 2,000 workers.

Sterling is not alone in cutting it workforce as manufacturing across Southwestern Ontario has been hammered by a downturn in the economy.

Statistics Canada reported this month there are 247,000 people working in London, compared to 250,000 in 2007. Manufacturing saw a significant drop with 26,900 working in the London region, a decline of 3,500 over the same period last year.

But some industries are hiring in the London area. They include General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada; Hanwha, a building supply firm; the Cakerie commercial bakery and Citi Cards.

Several plants that have opened in Stratford to supply the new Toyota assembly plant in Woodstock are hiring, including the Hayashi Canada plant.

Some call centres, the health-care field, Schneiders in St. Marys, P&H Foods in Hanover and Sifto Salt in Goderich are looking for workers, employment agencies have reported.

“Skilled trades are in high demand and there is a real cross-section of other businesses,” Shurgold said.

The action centre assessed what businesses are hiring and have tried to match information and training sessions with those, she said.

“We have searched the marketplace for every opportunity,” Shurgold said.

“Sterling has a readily available workforce because it is a closure and in areas where they cannot get workers it is an opportunity to fill positions.”

As for Belore, his workers in the pre-delivery inspection department at the Sterling plant have been to many of the sessions.

“I have no doubt a lot of these people will find work,” he said. “They are all motivated, they do an excellent job. I do not see them having a problem.”


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