Terra Nova Shoes get­ting the boot

MHA, govern­ment of­fer as­sis­tance to dis­placed em­ploy­ees

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY MELISSA JENK­INS

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.

Govern­ment aware

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.

Photo by Melissa Jenk­ins/The Com­pass

Terra Nova Shoes in Har­bour Grace will close its doors in Novem­ber af­ter 43 years of busi­ness.

Terry Barnes

Sam Slade

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