Firestone Textiles Company in Woodstock (Photo courtesy of Google via Google Street View)

Firestone Closure To Put 170 Out Of Work

It’s a difficult pill to swallow in Woodstock as about 170 employees of the Firestone Fibers and Textiles plant learned they will soon lose their jobs.

The workers were told Wednesday morning that the facility will be closed next year.

Bridgestone Canada Inc., Firestone’s parent company, announced it would be closing the Dundas St. plant by the second half of 2018. The facility’s 25 salaried employees and 135 unionized hourly workers will be phased out beginning on December 31.

“This has been an incredibly difficult decision that has come about only after extensive consideration and a thorough assessment of our business and operations,” said Bridgestone Americas Chief Operating Officer Bill Thompson in a written statement. “There is a strong team at the Woodstock plant, and we are grateful for our employees’ contributions to our business and the community. In light of increasing global competition and difficult market conditions, however, it is no longer viable to maintain operations in Woodstock.”

Production will continue in Woodstock during the 18-month transition, with the Kings Mountain, North Carolina plant assisting to meet customer demand in a cost-effective manner.

“We are proud of our long-standing presence in Woodstock and our Canadian footprint, and are focused first on our employees through this transition, but also on our customers, suppliers and community partners,” said Thompson.

Workers were told about the closure at an emergency staff meeting at 6am. The bulk of them were then given a paid day off to process the news.

“A lot of people left that meeting teary-eyed and having to go home and tell their loved ones that they weren’t going to have a job in the not too distant future,” said Rob Nicholas, regional director of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 175, which represents unionized workers.

Employees will receive severance packages. The company also said it is working with the union to “determine how to best support those affected,” including exploring options such as outplacement assistance and onsite job fairs.

“Severance is certainly beneficial but it doesn’t put food on the table and pay your mortgage long-term,” said Nicholas. “These employees have felt that the writing has been on the wall for some time. But this stresses the importance of organized labour focusing on different parameters with regard to trade agreements, like NAFTA, that keeps good paying jobs here instead of moving south of the border. This is going to be a devastating hit to the community.”

The Woodstock facility opened its doors in 1936. It currently produces Nylon 6 for external customers, and reinforcement materials for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, Firestone Industrial Products and Firestone Building Products.