HALIFAX – Premier Stephen McNeil got a heads-up from Michelin North America President Grant Ferguson late on Saturday night.
“He pretty well laid it out for me,” said McNeil. “Both the losses and potential opportunity as well.”
But it didn’t make Monday’s announcement any easier.
“It’s big news for Pictou county and the province when you lose 500 jobs.”
McNeil is staying positive however and hoping that the losses are mitigated when possible. That, he noted, starts with Michelin.
“One of the things we know is that Michelin will look within the organization to find jobs for these employees elsewhere in Nova Scotia,” he said. “I mean, this was obviously a great group of employees with valuable skills.”
The premier noted that while this is devastating news for the county, the government will step in and have a transition team in place to help employees find work after Michelin. Led by Minister of Labour and Advanced Education Kelly Regan, support will include career counselling and planning and help navigating the EI process, especially in the short term.
“One of the things Minister Regan will be doing is reaching out to workers and looking at their needs. We know that Michelin, for example, is putting together packages, retirement, severance and others for many employees.”
Deborah Carty, director of communications for Michelin North America (Canada), said the business is providing a severance package for those employees who are eligible and impacted by the operational change.
“A number of our employees, over 200 employees, are close to retirement,” she said. “This package, may, in particular, offer them an opportunity to consider early retirement.”
It’s the attention to the livelihood of employees that makes, as McNeil said, a great corporate citizen.
“It’s going to be a huge loss and Michelin made it clear that the product was no longer needed. This was a business decision.”
Despite the news, the premier is optimistic that Michelin will still employ over 3,000 people in Nova Scotia. He still hopes the tire maker may find the Granton plant useful in the near future.
According to Carty, after July 1, 2015, Michelin will have around 500 employees working at the Pictou County site. The buildings will be maintained, though most of the space currently occupied by tire production will be vacant after July 2015.
“This is a company that is always evolving,” said McNeil. “We made it clear that the province is willing to sit down with Michelin International and make sure that if there’s any way we can get Pictou County workers back in the plant, that we’ll do our best to make it happen.”
Meetings are taking place this week between Michelin and its Granton employees to find the best possible solutions as we discuss various options, including relocation to Waterville or Bridgewater, or a severance option.