JOHN ROBBINS/Bullet News
FORT ERIE – Welland NDP MPP Cindy Forster want to know what the federal and provincial governments are prepared to do to prevent workers from losing their severance and benefits when a foreign-owned company operating in Canada closes.
On Monday, Forster raised the issue in the Legislature when she spoke of the story of more than 100 former employees of Vertis Communications in Stevensville.
Last month, workers were called to a meeting and told the plant is closing effective immediately.
The move came after the assets of its U.S.-parent company was sold through bankruptcy proceedings to another American firm, Quad Graphics.
That company did not purchase the Fort Erie facility, which was previously known as American Color Graphics.
Union officials immediately decried the closure, urging the company to live up to its “legal and moral obligations.”
“A company does not have the right to shut down without notice or compensation for the employees that have worked for them, many for most of their lives,” Dan Wickson, president of CEP Local 425G, said in a statement the following day.
It’s still unclear what, if anything, legally can be done to aid the workers, who were told there would be no severance payments made.
For weeks, a group of workers working in shifts have picketed outside the plant, holding up vehicles entering and leaving the facility in hope that this kind of pressure and public attention will result in the company taking a different stance.
This past weekend, Forster and Welland NDP MP Malcolm Allen visited the workers on the picket line as a show of solidarity.
Niagara Falls Liberal MPP Kim Craitor has also been down to the line and has been in regular contact with union officials offering whatever assistance is available from his office.
On Monday, Forster questioned the new government of Premier Kathleen Wynne about the issue.
“If US Vertis Communications is not responsible for the workers’ severance pay and Quad Graphics is not responsible for the workers’ severance pay, who is going to ensure that Ontario workers’ rights for severance pay are upheld?” asked Forster.
“What are the Wynne Liberal government and the Harper Conservative government going to do to ensure that when foreign companies invest in this province and open in this province that workers’ rights are protected under provincial and federal employment legislation?
“The government is supposed to be there for the people.”
As Forster’s comments were read in the House as a Members’ Statement, there was no immediate response from the government benches.