Unite-Here, the main garment workers union in Canada, could hardly have been surprised when another apparel producing factory in Montreal was slated for closure earlier this year. This time it was Golden Brand Factory, which makes clothes for Moores’ Suits; about 540 workers are being let go. The union has seen a steady stream of apparel factories close in Canada over the past two decades, as production is shipped to lower wage countries like China. Even companies that originally prided themselves on their Canadian production have moved on, including Roots Canada, which explained in a recent posting:
In early 2004, with great reluctance and much disappointment, we closed one of our own manufacturing facilities in Toronto where we made much of the Roots apparel line. For seven years, we tried to compete with offshore manufacturing companies. Unfortunately, it proved a largely unprofitable and unrealistic exercise.
The sad reality today is that there are fewer available suppliers in Canada, and certain products can no longer be made in Canada. It’s a shame that free trade, globalization and the saturation of the Canadian market by major US and European companies manufacturing overseas have made this situation worse. The result: the technical capacity simply no longer exists in Canada to make certain categories of merchandise (i.e. luggage and backpacks).
Unite-Here fought the Golden Brand closure, taking its protests to the streets last May. It also apparently filed a grievance, although it is not clear to me what term of the collective agreement would have been breached by the factory closure. The union was seeking an order the factory remain open (something we talked about in an earlier blog dealing with the G.M. fiasco). Today, the union announced a settlement with the company involving the payment of $3.5 million dollars, which presumably will be distributed as severance pay to the dismissed workers. The factory will still close.
How do you feel about jobs leaving Canada for lower wage countries like China and India, etc? What position do you think unions and the Canadian government should take? The poor countries need these jobs if they are to lift themselves out of poverty. Is it fighting against closures in Canada being anti-Chinese, anti-Indian? Or should countries (like Canada) fight to keep these jobs in Canada, perhaps by offering tax incentives or other subsidies?