Dave Arturi, a three-year employee at Canada Bread, walked out the facility's door Wednesday with a severance package in hand, and some prospects for the future.
He worries about how many of his fellow co-workers, especially the 40-plus year veterans he got to know on his shift, are feeling today.
Once the reality of the closure set in, Arturi says it was business as usual. After the initial shock, the workers seemed resigned to their fates. Some compared it to an early layoff. Except this one was permanent.
Ominous signs began cropping up in the last year. Shifts were cut. The usual January slow period layoff took place months earlier instead. When Grupo Bimbo (owners of Canada Bread)representatives toured the facility, they reportedly asked where the rest of the warehouse was.
Said Arturi about a feeling that the plant was doomed, "We were running a lot of older machinery. And the production line is small. Some of the older guys felt secure because they had put in so much time," and had been through the company restructuring before.
A short time later, Grupo Bimbo announced that they were shutting the doors.
Inefficiencies in the outdated, tiny production area, coupled with skyrocketing hydro prices prompted the company to move production to Hamilton and other locations in Quebec.
Arturi indicated that depite losing their jobs, he and many co-workers were thankful that the positions were staying in Canada.
"They gave us severance packages, with a few extra bonuses thrown in, and employment counselling," said Arturi. As far as the opportunity to relocate to other Canada Bread facilities, Arturi stressed that the promise was not quite what it seemed.
"We weren't given that opportunity. Our (collectively bargained) wages are a lot higher than the other sites. Maybe there is a chance to relocate. Basically, we would be re-hired, but starting at the bottom again. Wages decreased, seniority reset," explained Arturi.
"Some of the guys I worked with are in their late fifties, have worked here since they were teenagers. They've always had this job. It's hard on the families.
Some of them aren't sure what they are going to do next," said Arturi.
On a personal level, between employment insurance and his severance, Arturi says he will survive for a while financially. But, he's wasting no time, as he's already applied for various positions around the city. Arturi also works as a DJ on a part-time basis, and indicated he may end up taking some time off to try to get a business he's been working on up and running.
The financial strain is real. "It didn't really hit me until about two weeks ago. The time has come," said Arturi, who has dependents to support.
"The company had an agenda, and the union expected us to do our jobs diligently, and we did," said Arturi. "As workers, we had no choice but to put up the white flag."
Asked for his thoughts on the entire layoff process, Arturi said, "It's almost like a letdown. You work, give your time, but you feel like it could have been different. It's a disappointment. You think you have found something to do with the rest of your life, and it's gone."