Siemens Canada: Tillsonburg plant that employees 300 may face bleak future amid ominous warning signs

Tillsonburg is teetering on the edge of losing 300 jobs at one of its largest employers.

The closing or temporary shutdown of Siemens Canada’s wind turbine blade plant in the Southwestern Ontario town would also raise questions about the fallout from Ontario’s controversial green energy policy.

Rumours of some kind of looming shutdown or closing at Siemens, one of four green energy plants lured to Ontario under a controversial multibillion-dollar provincial deal with Korean industrial giant Samsung, began a few weeks ago and intensified during the weekend.

A four-year Siemens employee said workers who called the plant’s sick line during the weekend were told there was no ­production Monday and were to attend a morning meeting today at the town community centre.

“It was the joke around there that they were just going to lock the doors, but we didn’t think it was going to happen,” said the man, who did not want to give his name.

Workers who showed up at the plant for the midnight shift Sunday found the doors locked and called security, said another employee.

They were played a recording saying production was halted and they were required to attend Tuesday’s meeting.

“They got locked out! With no notice! It’s very scary for us,” the worker said in an email.

Other workers who showed up Monday morning for their shifts were given a paper telling them the same thing, said a worker.

One employee said they’d heard earlier the plant would shut down in July.

“It’s not really a big surprise,” said the employee, who asked not to be identified.

A company notice obtained by The London Free Press requires employees to attend a 10 a.m. meeting at the Tillsonburg Community Centre, but provides no other details.

The meeting — and what it might mean for workers and the town — comes almost a year after the province pulled the plug on major new green energy projects.

Ontario — where electricity prices have basically doubled over the last decade, and where the energy file has become hugely political heading into next year’s election — had started the process to contract for an additional 600 megawatts ofwind energy, requiring construction of about a dozen new wind farms.

But amid rising criticism and after reports indicated that Ontario will have enough generation capacity for at least a decade, the Liberal government suspended plans for new projects in September.

Projects already in development weren’t affected.

“Clearly, the Liberal government should be working to build and promote our manufacturing sector — not set up situations where we’re losing these jobs,” said MPP Peter Tabuns, the NDP energy critic at Queen’s Park.

“There seems to be a growing disinterest on the part of the Liberals to actually invest in green energy. I think that may well lock us out of where the rest of the world is going in terms of energy technology,” said the Toronto MPP.

Conservative energy critic Todd Smith, the MPP for Prince Edward Hastings, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault’s office said, in a written statement, “the province has no comment on what is only speculation at this time.”

The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWea), an industry umbrella group, says the market remains healthy in Ontario, regardless of the news from Siemens.

Despite the province’s decision last fall to suspend new projects, there are orders to fill in Ontario and bids for projects in Alberta and Saskatchewan, said Brandy Giannetta, CanWea’s Ontario regional director.

“The outlook is positive,” Giannetta said, declining to comment on the Siemens situation specifically.

Tillsonburg Mayor Stephen Molnar refused to comment before information is shared with employees.

“I’m not prepared, nor would I be responsible, to make any comment in advance of the meeting.”

In 2010, four plants to make parts for wind and energy farms were set up under the Samsung deal between the company and the province to generate power for Ontario and create manufacturing jobs in green energy.

The four plants were to create about 900 jobs.

In exchange, Ontario agreed to buy heavily-subsidized power from Samsung wind and solar projects and guarantee the company space on the province’s crowded electricity transmission grid.

The Liberal government, sharply criticized over the cost of the agreement, later renegotiated it after the company missed some deadlines, slashing by more than one-third the nearly $10billion in power it had agreed to buy and reducing to $5billion from $7billion Samsung’s investment commitment.

While wind energy has its supporters, fierce opposition in rural communities — especially in Southwestern Ontario, home to the largest number of wind turbines in Ontario and the largest wind farms — remains and helped defeat two prominent Liberal cabinet ministers in the region in the 2011 election.

Much of the opposition has focused on the loss of local control, taken away by the province, over where the mega-projects can be built.

With files from Dale Carruthers, The London Free Press

rrichmond@postmedia.com

mstacey@postmedia.com

How we got here

2003: Liberals elected; vow to close Ontario’s dirty coal-fired power plants.

2009: Liberals plunge headlong into green energy, with a law that takes away local control over projects. Producers are signed up to long-term contracts, some paying 10 times what consumers pay for power.

2010: Multi-billion-dollar green energy deal signed with Korean industrial giant Samsung.

2011: Backlash takes down Liberal ministers in two Southwestern Ontario ridings.

2014: Coal-fired plants shut down, years later than planned.

2015: Auditor general reports Ontarians have paid $37 billion more than market prices for power over eight years. Ontario reaches 2,300 operating wind turbines.

2016: Contracts awarded for another 300 megawatts of wind power, process begun to buy another 600 megawatts. Government scraps 10-per-cent subsidy on power bills, but eight months later announces other relief.

2017: Large renewable energy buys suspended; smaller projects continue.

The deal

In 2010, under a multibillion-dollar agreement with the province, Samsung announced four plants to supply the wind and solar energy market would be built in Ontario.

The plants

London: Solar modules, about 200 jobs originally expected, partnering with Canadian Solar.

Windsor: Wind turbine towers, about 300 jobs, partnering with CSWind.

Tillsonburg: Wind turbine blades, about 300 jobs, partnering with Siemens.

Toronto:Solar inverters, about 200 jobs, partnering with SMA.

lfpress
employees Siemens job
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
1 view in october
I recommend
No recommendations yet

Comments

Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Society
Would you trust a taxi with no driver? Taxi firm Addison Lee is betting its customers will be ready to, in London at least, in just three years' time. It has joined forces with self-driving software specialist Oxbotica, and says the tie-up means it will offer self-driving taxis in the capital by 2021. The move will pit it against rival ride-hailing app Uber, which is also planning to roll out driverless cars on its network in the future, pending regulatory...
Crime
A senior US military commander has called on the UK to take back Islamic State fighters who have been "caught on the battlefield" in Syria. Maj Gen Patrick Roberson, commander of US special ops, also called on the government to repatriate two Londoners who have been called the "IS Beatles". The UK says El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey have been stripped of their British citizenship. The government is negotiating for them to face trial in the US. Speak...
Society
A woman has died in a suspected gas explosion in north-west London. Her body was found in a first-floor flat destroyed in the blast in Fulbeck Way, Harrow, just before 01:00 BST Sunday. Another woman, a man and a baby were rescued from a second-floor flat, with the woman and child taken to hospital. About 70 firefighters tackled the flames and 40 neighbours were evacuated from their homes. The Met is investigating. The victim, believed to be in her 80s, ha...
Society
About 13 million adults in the UK live in areas where at least half of the local banks and building societies have closed, analysis by the BBC reveals. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show nearly 6,000 local branches have shut since 2010, a fall of a third. The consumer group Which? called the number of closures "alarming". Trade association UK Finance said closing a branch was a last resort when usage falls. Banks and building societ...
Society
A ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars should be brought forward by eight years to 2032, MPs have said. The government's current plans to ensure all new cars are "effectively zero emission" by 2040 were "vague and unambitious", a report by Parliament's business select committee said. It also criticised cuts to subsidies and the lack of charging points. The government said it aimed to make the UK "the best place in the world" to own an electric vehicl...
Society
London area home sales fell 15.9 per cent in September from August because of a shortage of homes to sell, and that shortage of inventory helped push up prices by 20 per cent from a year ago, the head of the London St. Thomas Association of Realtors (LSTAR) said. In September, LSTAR reported 776 homes changed hands in London and St. Thomas, compared to a near-record August, when 923 homes were sold. By the numbers Homes sold in September: 776 (a drop of 6....
Society
Radical preacher Anjem Choudary, jailed for inviting support for the Islamic State group, has been released. The cleric was sentenced in 2016 to five-and-a-half years in prison. He led an extremist network linked to violent jihadists, including one of the killers of soldier Lee Rigby in 2013. Choudary, 51, has now served half of his sentence and will complete the rest under strict supervision. Police are preparing up to 25 measures to control him, the BBC...
Society
One of London's front-running mayoral candidates has already put 40 per cent more of his own money into his campaign than the $25,000 limit allowed by law, a move that could put him in jeopardy if he wins the top job, provincial and civic election officials say. One of London’s front-running mayoral candidates has already put 40 per cent more of his own money into his campaign than the $25,000 limit allowed by law, a move that could put him in jeopardy if...
Society
Nearly 150 County of Lambton paramedics are no longer responding to non-emergency calls amid ongoing negotiations for a new contract. Job action as of last Saturday means Lambton County paramedics won’t be doing non-urgent transfers between hospitals for the next while, or keeping ambulance stations as neat and tidy, a union spokesperson says. Nearly 150 Lambton Emergency Medical Services (EMS) paramedics represented by SEIU Healthcare Local 1 stopped resp...