Schneiders employees say goodbye on the last day at the plant
Published Thursday, February 26, 2015 6:05PM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 27, 2015 7:27PM EST
On the final shift at Kitchener's Schneiders plant, employees were given a choice of what they would like to eat as a last meal. A baloney sandwich made from Schneiders blue ribbon bologna is what they picked.
In the early years J.M. Schneider pledged if his employees wouldn't eat it, it wouldn't be sold to the public.
Friday marked the end of a 125-year run of local meat production under that banner – the last 97 of those years at a mammoth, oft-expanded facility on Courtland Avenue.
Paul Hauck has been an employee for 34 years, “It’s very sad to see this leave, to see the place close.”
Jobs have slowly disappearing from the plant since 2013, following the 2011 announcement that the aged plant would close.
Employees knew the closure was an eventuality, given its five floors and 11 elevators made it a much more cumbersome operation than the sprawling modern plants.
By the end, some sections of the building were even being held up by jacks to prevent a potential collapse.
“It would be near impossible to bring (this) to world-class standards,” plant manager Rick Larose said Thursday, shortly before the final batch of bologna rolled off the line.
Larose started working at Schneiders in 1974, right after leaving high school.
In time, his three children would also join him.
It’s a common story among employees and former employees, many of whom consider coworkers and family members one and the same.
“This is like my second family. You see these people every day (for) eight hours,” lead hand Kim Karges said Thursday.
Thursday marked the plant’s 600th straight day without an injury requiring lost time.
Although production ended Thursday, workers were back at the plant Friday to say their final goodbyes.
The building itself will then go through a six-month decommissioning process, with owner Maple Leaf Foods expected to put the site up for sale later in the year.
Mayor Vrbanovic says it's a fantastic property and one of the cleanest industrial sites in the city. He would like to see residential or an office commercial development, in that location.
“There's a long established neighbourhood there and we want to make sure that, whatever goes in there is going to add to the neighbourhood and is going to be bought into by the neighbourhood going forward,” says Vrbanovic.
But Kitchener’s loss is Hamilton’s gain. The Steel town is Maple Leaf's new home. The company has built a facility more than 400-thousand square feet in size -- and employs about 800 people.
The Director of Economic Development for the city of Hamilton Neil Everson says the city's transportation network likely played a big role in its selection over 34 other communities vying for the plant.
“This was a big win... 800 employees, $400 million investment,” says Everson.