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The union representing workers at MEC’s distribution centre in Brampton, Ont., is calling on the outdoor gear retailer to reconsider plans to close the facility and outsource its operations.

The closing at the end of May will mean cutting roughly 60 jobs. MEC informed employees of the decision on March 31.

On Thursday, the United Steelworkers union urged MEC’s new owners, California-based private equity firm Kingswood Capital Management, to reverse the decision.

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“When Kingswood’s acquisition of MEC was announced, the co-operative’s employees and its five million members across Canada were told the new American owner would save jobs. … MEC workers and their families in Brampton believe the new owner should make good on those commitments,” said Marty Warren, USW’s director for Ontario and Atlantic Canada, in a statement.

At the time of the sale last year, the co-op had 1,284 employees. The retailer – formerly known as Mountain Equipment Co-op but now known as Mountain Equipment Co. – currently has 1,332 employees, not accounting for the coming cuts.

A statement from MEC said outsourcing the Brampton facility’s operations will allow the retailer to meet customers’ changing expectations, particularly as e-commerce sales accelerate. A third-party logistics provider will allow MEC to process online orders on the day they are placed, versus the current timeline of one to five days at the facility in Brampton.

“The decision was made to change our eastern distribution operations because the facility was not adequate for our current and future needs,” the statement said. “As part of our greater distribution solutions, a new Ontario distribution partner allows us to respond and adapt to the everchanging demands of retail.”

MEC went into creditor protection last September, announcing at the same time that it had reached a deal to sell the 50-year-old chain to Kingswood. The deal was controversial, with some co-op members arguing that they deserved to have a say in any decision to sell – especially in a deal that would dissolve the co-op structure. A court ultimately approved the sale.

MEC has another distribution centre in Canada – in Surrey, B.C. – that serves its bricks-and-mortar stores and also fills e-commerce orders.

The Brampton facility opened less than five years ago, and employees there were preparing for negotiations on a new collective agreement, the USW said in its release. The current collective agreement expires on June 30.

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“The timing and the callousness of dropping this bombshell on loyal employees – that they are about to lose their jobs in the middle of a pandemic – is very disconcerting, to say the least,” Mr. Warren said in the statement.

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