VIPs turn sod for massive ‘fulfilment centre’
It was a day for superlatives as a who’s who of local, provincial and federal politicians gathered alongside Amazon officials to break ground in Carlsbad Springs for the online retail giant’s first Ottawaarea warehouse on Monday.The warehouse, at a touch over a million square feet, will be the largest industrial building in the region. It will be the size of 60 NHL hockey rinks. If you were to fill the behemoth with maple syrup, there would be about 30 litres for everyone in Canada, according to Amazon. Fifteen hundred skilled trades workers will contribute to its construction before it is ready to open in the fall of 2019 in time for peak season — that’s the holiday rush in an Amazon fulfilment centre.“Today is a great day,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said from a platform in the middle of a sea of packed earth. “Really, we shouldn’t be surprised a company as techoriented as Amazon is continuing to look north.”The warehouse is to be the fifth in Ontario and the province’s first outside the Toronto region. Amazon now has 7,000 full-time employees in Canada.Last year, Trudeau sent a letter to Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos urging him to consider Canada as a home for Amazon’s second headquarters, citing business advantages such as universal health care, a stable banking system and a pool of highly educated workers.Ottawa, too, was wooing Amazon to consider the national capital as a potential location for HQ2, as it has been dubbed.Ottawa didn’t make the short list, but last month Amazon announced that Carlsbad Springs, just off the 417 corridor to Montreal, would be getting a massive fulfilment centre instead. The city has agreed to let Amazon’s landlord, Broccolini, defer more than $8 million in municipal development charge payments until the fulfilment centre is built.Mayor Jim Watson spoke Monday about the importance of diversifying Ottawa’s economy. While unemployment rates across the city are low, “we’ve always seen the need for jobs in the east end,” he said.Glenn Sommerville, Amazon’s Toronto-based director of regional operations, called the groundbreaking a “huge” day for the retail giant.But few details were divulged about the fulfilment centre that were not known before. The warehouse is to be focused on distributing larger items such as household decor, sporting equipment and gardening gear.Of the 600 permanent jobs in Carlsbad Springs, about 100 will be in categories such as human resources, information technology, engineering and operations management, Sommerville said in an interview after the groundbreaking.The rest of the jobs will be for workers who stock shelves, pick the products that have been requested by customers, and pack them into boxes.Amazon will start to advertise jobs in the fulfilment centre about three months before it opens, he said.Workers in Amazon fulfilment centres work four 10-hour shifts a week. Asked about the company’s policy of requiring “mandatory” overtime, which has been controversial elsewhere, Sommerville replied: “We prefer not to run overtime at all.”Amazon took the groundbreaking as an opportunity to tout a program that pays up to 95-percent tuition to workers looking to get certified for “in-demand” jobs, whether or not the jobs are with the company.Patrice Thompson was a stayat-home mother of six and was looking at furthering her education when she started to work for Amazon in Mississauga, just west of Toronto. She is now a processing assistant and has completed a program in transportation and logistics at Sheridan College. The human resources team at Amazon adjusted her schedule so she was able to attend classes, she said.The question remains: Will the warehouse produce sustainable jobs that pay good wages?Amazon officials said jobs in Carlsbad Springs will offer “competitive” salaries, as well as medical and dental benefits, a group RRSP, and performance-based bonuses. A similar fulfilment centre in Brampton recently advertised warehouse jobs paying $14.40 an hour, plus 50 cents more an hour for the night shift — just a little over Ontario minimum wage.“We live in a city made up of white-collar professionals,” said Cumberland ward Coun. Stephen Blais in an interview following the groundbreaking. “This is an important step to create middle-market jobs. For anyone who can get 95 per cent of tuition, it would seem like a pretty good opportunity.”Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod said spinoff jobs and businesses are important to the community.“To suggest that we don’t want more jobs in rural Eastern Ontario would be out of touch.”Today is a great day. Really, we shouldn’t be surprised a company as tech-oriented as Amazon is continuing to look north.
Amazon held an official ceremony Monday in Carlsbad Springs at the future location of its new fulfillment centre in Ottawa’s eastern suburb of Orléans. The centre is expected to create more than 600 full-time jobs.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joins Amazon executives Monday at the official groundbreaking of the one-millionsquare-foot customer fulfilment centre in Ottawa. The facility is Amazon’s fifth in Ontario.
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