News

Siemens Canada: There's sympathy in Tillsonburg for laid-off workers, and anger at Ontario's Liberal government

By Heather Rivers, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

TILLSONBURG  - 

Sympathy for pink-slipped workers, anger at Ontario’s Liberal government.

Tillsonburg was reeling Tuesday in the fallout of the closing of the wind turbine blade plant operated by Siemens, where 340 jobs will be lost by January.

“I’m not surprised,” said resident Kathy Heide. “It’s definitely not going to be good. A lot of people are out of jobs.”

One of Tillsonburg’s largest employers, brought to town under a provincial energy deal with Korean industrial giant Samsung, Siemens is pulling the plug on its factory amid dwindling orders and growing demand for longer blades than the plant can produce.

Mayor Stephen Molnar said he was “surprised at the timing” of the closing.

“It was more disappointing, ultimately,” he said. “This is not good news, obviously.”

Right now, he said, it’s time for the town to focus helping workers get new jobs and attracting new opportunities.

“Our concentration needs to be, and will remain in the foreseeable short term, on satisfying the new expectations of the men, women and children most impacted by this announcement,” he said.

Molnar described the town’s historical relationship with Siemens as “valuable and very positive” in bringing jobs and opportunity.

Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman said his main concern is for the workers left jobless “through no fault of their own,” adding: “It’s going to be a very difficult thing.”

The workers will be forced to compete for jobs with others recently out of work at Cami Automotive in Ingersoll and Cold Springs in Thamesford.

“It’s harder and harder to find alternative employment when . . . more and more (people are) looking,” he said.

Hardeman, a Progressive Conservative MPP, said he doesn’t want to “point fingers until we have a little bit more information” about the closing.

“Any news like this is a shock to the community. I feel for all the employees,” said Lisa Smith, owner of Coffee Culture. “It’s a sad day.”

But others blamed Ontario’s Liberal government and its Green Energy Act.

“It’s unfortunate that billions have been wasted on green energy. I’m all for green energy, but it should have been brought in gradually,” said retiree Bob Varro.

“Three hundred jobs (lost) is going to hurt this town,” he said.

Woodstock Sentinel-Review 

Tillsonburg takes on the Siemens plant closing

“I think they are not getting the money from the Liberal government so they are bailing. It’s going to hurt all the little businesses.”

— Dave Simmonds, retiree

“Every time we lose a business with good paying jobs it affects our business. I hope these people will find job openings.”

— Joe Nezezon, clothing store manager

“It starts to make you worry about other factories in town. We will keep on trucking. Hopefully another business will open up. You have to be positive about it.”

— Julie Byrne, retail worker

“My son-in-law works (at Siemens Canada) and he just put an addition on his house. He’s going to have to find another job. It’s hard on him.”

— Henry Suderman

The deal

In 2010, under a multibillion-dollar agreement with the province, Samsung announced it would build four manufacturing plants to supply the wind and solar-energy market.

The plants

London: Solar modules, about 200 jobs originally expected, partnership with Canadian Solar.

Windsor: Wind-turbine towers, about 300 jobs, partnership with CS Wind.

Tillsonburg: Wind-turbine blades, about 300 jobs, partnership with Siemens.

Toronto: Solar inverters, about 200 jobs, partnering with SMA.

Chronology

2003: Liberals elected; vow to close Ontario’s dirty coal-fired power plants.

2009: Liberals plunge into green energy with law taking away local control over projects. Producers are signed to long-term contracts, some paying 10 times what consumers pay for power.

2010: Multibillion-dollar green energy deal signed with Korean industrial giant Samsung.

2011: Backlash takes down Liberal ministers in two Southwestern Ontario ridings.

2014: Coal-fired plants shut down, years later than planned.

2015: Auditor general reports Ontarians have paid $37 billion more than market prices for power over eight years. Ontario reaches 2,300 operating wind turbines.

2016: Contracts awarded for another 300 megawatts of wind power, process begun to buy another 600 MW. Government scraps 10 per cent subsidy on power bills, but eight months later announces other relief.

2017: Large renewable energy buys suspended; smaller projects continue.

 

Tuesday: Siemens announces closing of Tillsonburg plant by January 2018, with just more than 200 of the 340 workers to be pink-slipped immediately.