A.O. Smith employees in Fergus protest plant closure
Workers from the A.O. Smith water heater plant in Fergus held a rally to protest the plant's upcoming closure.
The group says the company will be saving 10 million dollars a year by moving to the U.S. While the worker's union says it's left scrambling without enough funds to cover everyone's pensions.
More than 100 frustrated and angry workers at the A.O. Smith the former GSW water heater plant stood together to protest the company's decision to close up shop and move to the U.S.
Many choked back tears as they spoke about their fears for the future and whether they'll get enough pension to live on.
Joanne Whitney has been with the company for 16 years, she says, “It’s probably the most devastating thing that's ever happened to anyone in this town.”
A fixture in Fergus for more than a 100 years, many of the employees have worked here their entire lives and with their pension plans now hanging in the balance are at a loss over what to do next.
Peter Law, 59, has been with the company for 35 years, he says he was about to retire.
“You lose your ability to make your payments, get the healthcare you need, retire with a decent pension. They owe us that much.”
In an email to CTV News, A.O. Smith says, that The United Steel Workers Union took over management of the pension plan in 1990, at which time it was overfunded and any underfunding now is the responsibility of the union.
Regardless, say the workers, the company has a moral obligation to do more. The bare minimum that they think they've done their part just doesn't cut it” says Whitney
Marty Warren is the district 6 director for the United Steel Workers Union says, “We say if your saving 10 million dollars, you're worth a billion dollars, this place has been here more than a 100 years, step up to the plate and do more.”
NDP leader Andrea Horwath lent her voice at the rally calling on A.O Smith as well as the provincial liberals to help preserve manufacturing in Ontario.
“We have a premier in Ontario who thinks the crisis in manufacturing is a myth. Well I wish she was here today so that you could explain to her that it is no myth” says Horwath.
For those already retired from the plant, it's the bleak outlook for the entire manufacturing industry in Ontario that has them most worried.
When talking to CTV Kitchener, Andre Valga was choking back tears.
“I’m just emotional because my grandchildren won’t have work….So they have jobs in the states but we won’t have any here.”
The company says it plans to still use part of the plant in Fergus as a type of distribution centre and says it's plant in Stratford will remain open and not be affected.