As part of our ongoing coverage of the decline of manufacturing jobs in Canada, The Globe and Mail invited readers to share their stories of job loss and what it has meant for them and their families.
Below are some of the stories we’ve received so far. To add your own story, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Murray MacDonald, 49, Elmvale, Ont.
I would like to share my story of losing my job in 2008. I was a beef farmer for my whole life until 2002, when the “mad cow” outbreak wreaked havoc on the Canadian cattle industry. Forced by economic disaster in the beef markets, I decided to return to school at the age of 39. I had decided that with the insecurity of the free market, and with politics playing such a large role in my financial well being, it was time to get a steady paying job with less volatility in income. I was always comfortable working with machines and metal, so I pursued a career in mould making, which is the equivalent of a tool and die certificate. Mould making is generally related to the manufacture of plastic parts, but also includes die-cast products made from some metals as well.
I was hired on full time at a cosmetic container manufacturing facility in Barrie, Ont., after completing a work co-op term there. Risdon Cosmetic Containers, later known as Risdon International, made and labelled lipstick containers for most of the big names in cosmetics. The list includes Clinique, L'Oréal, MAC, Maybelline, Dior, Estée Lauder and others.
My position was as a mould maker in the tool room. I was one of five people whose daily tasks included cleaning and maintenance of moulds and components, repairs to damaged components, trouble shooting problem moulds, and machining new components. The tool room also prototyped new designs for companies looking to put a new face on an old product.
In 2006, our business was sold to investors with a new vision. Workers were asked to take a 2-per-cent pay cut along with changes to our benefits package. This was to give the company breathing room to move forward and further secure our future.
It soon became evident that the owners had a vision to take the manufacturing to China. The first step was to have new moulds made in China. The second phase involved sending product lines (moulds) to be operated in China. The writing was on the wall, jobs were going to disappear in Barrie.
One of the most disturbing things about the plant closure was how the company was able to walk away without paying any severance to its employees. I wasn't eligible for much but many people had 20 years or more in the company. I felt bad for them. That was going to be a cushion while they retrained or sought new employment, but Canadian laws allow companies like Risdon to slip away like a ship in the night.
My advice for anyone in a similar situation is to always step up and get training and qualifications if it is offered at your current work place. This can include first aid, forklift training, WHMIS, conflict resolution and many others. These skills and qualifications will set you apart from the crowd when you apply to a new position. I would also advise people to be looking for work before a company closure. I know a few people who moved on before our plant closed and they are still working today. The sentiment at Risdon was, “I think I'll hang on until the end. If I leave now, I'll lose my severance.”
The loss of my job lead me to Employment Resource Centre (ERC), where I participated in seminars and tutorials designed to help me discover a new career and sharpen my job search. After a couple of months, it became evident that jobs in my field were scarce and much lower paying than my previous job. I didn't qualify for government assistance to retrain as a welder, which would complement my existing metal-working background, because the welding program was not a 12-month course, which was a requirement.
The loss of my job affected our family life as well as my personal life. I was forced to stop training as a private pilot, which has been a dream of mine for several years. We have two sons who are enrolled in university and the tuition and living expenses are significant. My wife, Cathy, and I have always tried to live within our means and that means that we don't dine out nearly as often, we take far fewer weekend “breakations,” which might include a weekend in Toronto or Ottawa to see a show at the theatre or skate on the Rideau Canal. We drive older vehicles and keep them longer. This goes against the popular theory of many economists saying we must spend our way out of economic hard times. That is a slippery slope that people should be wary of.
I am self-employed now farming part time and machining as needed for clients in my area. I have purchased tool-making equipment and work in my own work shop. I enjoy seeing people that I have helped with a problem leave happy. Often I can repair their problems for half the cost of a new part. If I think they would benefit from buying new then I tell them that. I love the freedom to work at my own pace and choose my own hours.
I am sad to see so many well-paying jobs vanishing only to be replaced with low-paying retail jobs. Lower wages mean less taxes are being collected. It surely has a snowball effect on the whole economy. Cathy and I are starting to take notice of where things are made and try to buy North American-made goods. I would love to see retailers with only North American-made products. I think Canadian-made is great too, but in reality we must co-operate with our largest and closest ally, the U.S.A. We are in this labour shift to Asia together. I am sad to see U.S. protectionist action to take jobs home. Hopefully North America can unite for the greater good.
I am happy to share my story, thank you for the opportunity.
Johanne Beaurone, London, Ont.
I used to have a job at Navistar in Chatham, Ont. Two years ago, at the end of our contract, they laid everyone off and idled the plant. Finally, last summer they announced that they were closing the plant. They left us all dangling for over a year, wondering if we would still have jobs. Now, seven months later, we still have not received any severance.
My family and I moved to London, hoping that there would be better job opportunities. My family of five is crammed into an overpriced two bedroom apartment and the jobs are just as elusive here as they were in Chatham. I am working at a McDonald’s for minimum wage; it took me nine months just to get full time. My husband had found a job working as a maintenance man at a mall but they eliminated the three full-time workers and hired a bunch of part-time workers without benefits. His employment insurance has run out and soon we won't even be able to afford this tiny apartment. We have no benefits and my husband has extremely high blood pressure and we simply cannot afford any medication.
I always felt fortunate to work at Navistar, making a good wage and working with many fine co-workers. The work on the line was very heavy and definitely took its toll on my body and many of my co-workers’ health as well. I very much miss the camaraderie on the line and the benefits as well as the pay. We built a good-quality truck that we all took pride in.
To my way of thinking, Navistar has treated all their employees abominably, making us wait in limbo for so long before announcing they were closing. In Chatham-Kent, that made you more or less unemployable because no one wanted to hire you knowing you would leave if Navistar stayed open. I volunteered at the workers adjustment centre and saw first-hand the devastating effects on so many fine people. So many people have lost their homes, gone bankrupt, broken marriages, etc., due to the financial and emotional stress that being in limbo caused.
The worst thing to endure was probably the attitude of the other residents of Chatham-Kent. We were vilified by them and told that we got what we deserved and that we should have taken what the company offered. What they just didn't get was that the offer from the company was only a pseudo offer that would never be accepted.
As soon as the union wanted to revisit the offer, it was yanked off the table with great speed. Navistar just wanted to be able to blame the workers and if you ask the residents of Chatham Kent why it closed, they will be happy to tell you it was the greedy workers and union that caused it to close, not corporate greed.
We cannot afford vacations or luxury items. When you work for minimum wage, you barely cover expenses. I hate to say it but the welfare recipients have it better; they at least can get prescriptions covered. Almost all the jobs on the job bank are through employment agencies. You get no benefits, no job security and absolutely no respect. I tried several of them when we first moved here. You are on call 24/7 and you never know where or what shift you will be on.
The other workers don't want to get to know the temps because they know you won't be there long. Working for temp agencies, you can't get a loan or a mortgage, because you have no guaranteed income. The most they pay is $12 an hour and you are usually working beside people making much more. We have become a temporary society. I don't see a future for us. I am encouraging my kids to get a good education so they won't be stuck like us.
The last issue I want to address is unions. I don't understand why everyone knocks them. Companies don't give you anything out of the goodness of their hearts. We have the right to refuse unsafe work, to have paid stat holidays, freedom from discrimination and many other benefits that unions fought for. I know that the global economy has changed and that manufacturing has to change too, but if all the companies move to China, Mexico or the right-to-work states like Alabama that offer the companies huge incentives to get them there, sooner or later it will hit their bottom line because who will be able to afford the products that they manufacture? I am most definitely one of the 99 per cent.
Anonymous, Fort McMurray, Alta.
I lost my job while employed as a fibre production team leader at NewPage Port Hawkesbury in Port Hawkesbury, N.S.
I took a job as a fibre production team leader in May, 2011, after leaving a place after 10 years. NewPage Port Hawkesbury appeared to be poised for good things, as they were hiring a great deal of people, and had a great many plans for cost reduction, etc.
On Aug. 15, my family and I took ownership of a new home approximately 70 km away from Port Hawkesbury, and on Aug. 22, NewPage announced the intention to close the facility.
As for my family, they currently all live in N.S., and I reside in Alberta. As for my confidence, I was unemployed for approximately three months, and at times it was hard to keep my confidence, as many anomalies were directed at me, usually with advertised positions being taken by inside personnel, sometimes after I was interviewed and practically accepted into the position. I kept my confidence up, as I knew I had a good education, work ethic, ability, and willingness to relocate as required.
After approximately three months of unemployment, I obtained employment in Fort McMurray, Alta., and very much appreciate it and my employer.
The best advice I can give is to be confident, as without confidence it is very hard to take part in an interview, as lack of confidence is very hard to hide. As for location, be open. As a point of interest, we have all heard about the bad side of Fort McMurray. I believe this view is put forth by disgruntled people who left Fort McMurray. Fort McMurray is a very friendly and family-based community, which is no different than any other location in Canada. Personally, I like it as it is a community that is not focused on the negative. It is a very positive place to work and live.
Mac Hoy, 50, Stratford, Ont.
I was 42 when I lost job my job as a financial accounting leader at FAG Bearings Ltd. My job was eliminated at start of 2004, after the company was bought out by a private German company.
My boss shook my hand and thanked me for all the hard work. A week later, I was in the South Pacific, Cook Islands, for two weeks and back home for one week, then to Thailand and Burma for a month, followed by a hiking trip to Patagonia (Argentina, Chile) for three weeks.
I went travelling, not job searching. I had one full year off before starting tax work part time.
I had to go to court to recover my severance, which was successful but a lot of work. (It took four years.)
I now realize that there is more to life that going to work. With a job, you start when you are told, take lunch when you are told and are also dictated the amount of money you will get paid. How can this be fun?
I just finished David Chilton’s new book Wealthy Barber Returns, and realize that I have always followed his wisdom. This resulted in me deciding that I would never work full time again for anyone and I have not and never will. I work part time doing tax work. (I must say I am single.)
My job loss was actually the best thing that ever happened to me as I am not trapped in the rat race and operating loan/credit card society that a lot of people get trapped in.
I can travel anywhere I want (and have seen all seven continents including Antarctica) and when I want. I now have enough investment income to never work again for the rest of my life.
My main point is that if you save for a rainy day, money really compounds. I don't have a nice house or an SUV but have no mortgage and have never borrowed money to buy a vehicle. This lifestyle sure gets rid of a lot of stress if you lose your job.
Job loss can be good.
Anonymous, 58, Chatham, Ont.
I lost my job at HE Vannatter in 2007. After working a tool and die job and as a computer number control operator for 25 years, the company closed. Before that, I worked at Superior Die, Tool and Machine Company, Siemens – they were all closed in 2006-2007. Since then, I’ve tried very hard to find work for two years, but there’s nothing. I live in Chatham, Ont., and I’ve looked as far as Windsor and London, but still can't get job. The government’s action plan does not work.
Finally, I gave up, just withdrew the money I had been saving for many years while I had work. Now I'm 58 and it looks like I have to wait to 67 to get Old Age Security.
It’s very upsetting.
I have been out of work since March, 2010. I went back to school from May, 2010, until April, 2011, and completed a post-graduate certificate in project management. I already have a degree in business administration and a diploma in marketing. I can't even afford to complete a program at Ryerson University in health service management.
Why do employers not hire people with bad credit? Don't they know your credit will go bad in a situation like this?
Have your say
To share your own story, e-mail email@example.com. In your e-mail, please include as much detail as possible, including:
- Your name, age, location and a photo
- Your company, job title, and details of your job loss
- How the job loss affected your family, your finances and your confidence
- Your success or failure in finding new employment
- Your message for other readers in similar situations
If you have any questions about this project, you can contact Report on Business community editor Dianne Nice.
Dianne Nice is the Report on Business Communities Editor and is on Twitter: @diannenice