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Epiroc down to a dozen after layoffs rock local plant. Demise started three years ago

Plant had almost 100 employees just last year

Editor's note: Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli issued this statement the day following the publication of this story.

"We were all disappointed to learn of Epiroc’s decision to restructure its North Bay production facility, resulting in a reduction of 65 employees. The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development helps affected employees cope with losing their jobs and guide them to review options and plan next steps to regain employment.

"We want the employees to know that our government stands with them and their families. The government of Ontario stands ready to support our mining companies and mining workers.”


Original story:

It's a dramatic fall for a company that was once a jewel in North Bay's crown of successful companies.

The announced layoffs yesterday, means the once-proud facility that employed almost 100 workers just last year, and had over 130 at its peak, has been reduced to a dozen.

See: Sixty-five lost jobs as Epiroc downgrades North Bay plant to distribution centre

Unsuspecting employees didn't know it at the time, but the wheels of the North Bay plant began to wobble with the announcement by Atlas Copco in January 2017 that it would split into two separate companies in 2018: Atlas Copco, focusing on industrial customers, and Epiroc, focusing on mining, infrastructure, and natural resources customers.

Back in Sept. 2008, the plant, which had been a decade in the making, contained new state of the art automated manufacturing equipment and the future looked bright.

"We said that North Bay is a good place. It is the centre of mining and Canada is the centre of exploration in the world. So we decided we need a good place in this environment,” explained Senior Executive Vice President of Mining and Construction Bjorn Rosengren at the plant's official opening.

"It’s an opportunity for the future and I think it bodes well for the employees in the city of North Bay, the confidence of a large multi-national corporation who are willing to invest in the future and we are more than happy to be part of that too,” stated Jeff Hagar, local manager. "There is a culture and the skill set with employees that make this a great place to locate and that is why Atlas Copco and our competitors are here."

The new production plant employed over130 people.

See: Atlas Copco opens new factory in the Bay

Things were great for 10 years, but the bubble of optimism didn't last. Atlas Copco's decision to split the company put the North Bay plant on a slippery slope to the point of becoming a warehouse and distribution building.

See: Epiroc becomes fully independent company

"We appreciate the many contributions of all of our North Bay employees over the years and regret that we have had to let some people go," Julie Massé, Senior Director, Marketing told BayToday in an email. "Eight people are remaining in their current roles in the engineering, sales, and product management teams.  Another four or five people have been offered positions related to distribution centre operations."

But why did North Bay lose it's plant to Montreal if this was such a great location with great employees?

"Epiroc has a similar production capacity in Montreal," replied Masse. "This difficult decision was based on an analysis of the two facilities including overall operations and future capacity."

The Epiroc North Bay facility will now be used to distribute ground support tooling, such as the Swellex rock bolting product line across Canada and to store equipment, such as spare parts and components needed in the area.

Masse said the company gave Mayor Al McDonald a heads up prior to the announcement.

BayToday reached out to the mayor for comment but received no response.

The Ontario government has given a lot of money to Epiroc in the past so we asked what Epiroc had to say about taxpayer money, and the anger felt by many at what they consider a betrayal.

"Over the years that Epiroc has been part of this community, we have also contributed to local initiatives such as Canadore College’s iCamp innovation center. We will also continue to support local suppliers as much as possible in this transition and beyond. Epiroc remains present in Ontario, namely in North Bay, Sudbury, and Mississauga," explained Masse.

We tried contacting Nipissing MPP and Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade  Vic Fedeli but got no reply.

BayToday also called Invest North Bay President George Burton to ask what that group might have in the pipeline to replace those lost jobs but received no response.

The City has poured large sums of money into Invest North Bay in an effort to attract business to this area, but after five years has almost nothing to show for its efforts.

See: Invest North Bay hopes to report its first successful investment in the city, within the next few months

And: Invest North Bay dumps marketing company contract. Why?

Eriroc will continue making cutting-edge technology like innovative drill rigs, rock excavation and construction equipment, just not manufactured in North Bay.

"Epiroc is proud to be part of the North Bay community and we are thankful to our past and present employees for the high quality work that has been done here," said Masse.

Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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