Terra Nova Shoes getting the boot
MHA, government offer assistance to displaced employees
Tuesday, July 8 was a day many in Conception Bay North won’t soon forget.
It was the day Kodiak Group Holdings Ltd., owner of the Terra Nova Shoes plant in Harbour Grace, announced to its 80-plus workers production at the facility would shut down permanently this November.
Staff were caught off-guard, like others in the area, when they learned plant operations would be moved to Cambridge, Ont., due to the high cost of producing and shipping product to and from Newfoundland.
The announcement was met with anger, frustration and sadness by leaders from the region, including the town’s mayor, Terry Barnes, and Carbonear-Harbour Grace MHA Sam Slade.
Slade was one of the first provincially elected officials to speak out against the issue, but insisted the business was the least of the concerns.
“It’s not about (Kodiak) closing down,” Slade told The Compass Tuesday ( July 8) afternoon. “It’s about those 80-odd people from all over the district that will be out of work in November.”
Slade has based his short time as an MHA on a campaign promise — it’s about the people — a comment he repeated while speaking of the closure.
Slade and Mayor Barnes were contacted by a St. John’s television reporter on Monday morning, July 7, saying they had heard the plant would be closing. Neither was aware of the situation, so they went to speak with management at Terra Nova Shoes. They left with more questions than answers.
“We were told everything was business as usual,” said Barnes.
He and Slade went to Harbour Grace town hall to discuss the visit.
“At that time, we knew something was going on,” said Slade. “We didn’t know what, but we knew it was something.”
Neither could get any definitive answers until Tuesday, when a media release announced the plant would be closing.
The town, which has a budget of less than $2.6 million, will lose some $70,000 in income when the plant, which opened in 1971, closes.
In an email to The Compass from Department of Innovation, Business and Rural Development spokesperson Jennifer Tulk, it was confirmed the government was aware of the closure a few days prior to the announcement.
“(The department) was advised by the company of its decision a couple of days before they informed employees,” she said. “During that time, the department worked with the company to see if there was anything government could do to help the company stay in the province.
“The company advised that further funding options (would) not cause the decision to be reversed.”
As for contacting the mayor, the government was advised against telling anyone.
“The company requested confidentiality as they wanted to inform their employees in a respectful manner,” the email continued.
However, Slade and Barnes felt left in the cold.
“At the very least, the mayor should have been told,” Slade stated.
Besides the media release, Kodiak executive vicepresident of marketing David McCarthy refused to answer additional questions from The Compass through email.
In 2008, the provincial government gave a 10-year interest-free loan to Kodiak for expansion and production in Harbour Grace worth $8 million.
Since then, The Compass has l earned Kodiak has paid back $ 1 million.
“The l oan was reduced by a million dollars,” Tulk said. “Currently, there is approximately $6.1 million outstanding on the loan.”
The department is expecting to receive a proposal from Kodiak in the coming days that outlines the plan for repayment.
Although the workers will no longer work at the plant after November they may still have other opportunities.
Kodiak gave workers the option to apply for other positions in Cambridge, with an incentive to cover relocation costs. The positions are not guaranteed, but The Compass has learned at least one member of management would be relocating. Slade said that’s not good enough. “A lot of these workers have been there a long time,” he said. “They don’t want to move to Cambridge. They have already rooted themselves here for 25, 30 years. And now, are they expected to start over?”
Slade doesn’t want that to be the experience of these workers.
“I am here to help in anyway possible for those employees and their families,” Slade explained, advising those who wish to speak with him to contact his office.
The Department of Advance Education and Skills has also offered to give assistance to the displaced workers at its office in Carbonear.
Those impacted can take advantages of job fairs, one-on-one sessions and retraining from the department.
Kodiak has said employees will receive severance pay, and, if they stay until November, they will also receive a bonus.
It is unknown at this time what will happen with the facility after it shuts down, but Barnes and the Harbour Grace town council are working to find a solution.
“Council will have to get together, and see what steps we can take from here,” he explained. “Do we want to lose jobs? Absolutely not.”
Coun. Kathy Tetford also told The Compass she wants to ensure those workers involved in the closure are not left out in the cold.
“The town is taking necessary steps to protect the assets, and make sure the residents of Harbour Grace and surrounding areas are treated in the best way possible,” she explained.
Terra Nova Shoes in Harbour Grace will close its doors in November after 43 years of business.