Jobs going South
Laid-off employees at Montebello Packaging are "disgusted, disappointed and shocked" that the company has expanded its operation in Lebanon, Kentucky while it cuts jobs here at home.
According to an article that appeared in the 2012 Kentucky Economic Development Guide, Montebello Packaging is on its way to expanding its facility in Lebanon, Kentucky.
The article notes the company is expanding its production of large aerosol cans for the North American market with a new greenfield operation in Lebanon.
It will house up to five lines starting with a 200 piece-per-minute manufacturing line featuring an eight-colour printing press and full shaping capacity for can diameters of 45mm to 66 mm.
"Montebello continues to broaden its production capabilities to better meet the needs of its valued customers," the article notes.
In an e-mail to The Review sent Monday, October 8, the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development said, "Montebello has built its addition and installed one line. It is currently getting the line up and running and plans to have a grand opening in the near future."
According to an employee at the Montebello Packaging plant in Hawkesbury who was recently laid off and wishes to remain anonymous, all of this is news to employees.
"At this point, we (employees) don't know what to think," he said. "What I can say is, everyone is disgusted, disappointed and shocked. The company never told us anything, just gave us our layoff notices."
For more than 50 years, Montebello Packaging has focused on quality, performance, innovation and customer satisfaction. Montebello is a world-class manufacturer of collapsible aluminum and laminate tubes, ink markers, aluminum aerosols and all-plastic tubes.
Founded in the town of Montebello, Quebec, by Europeans with roots in tube manufacturing, operations commenced in 1952. Fifteen years later, the operation moved to its present location in Hawkesbury and has expanded six times.
The employee provided The Review with a copy of a news release issued by the Commonwealth of Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.
According to the news release, on October 20, 2011, Governor Steve Beshear joined officials from Montebello Packaging to announce the company's more than $24.2 million expansion at its plant in Lebanon. The plant employs about 108 workers.
Montebello Packaging has operated its facility in Lebanon, Kentucky for 13 years.
"Montebello's $24.2 million expansion will not only create 26 new jobs, but will also result in new product lines that will further secure the long-term success of Montebello's Lebanon operation," Beshear stated in the release.
The release also notes that the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) preliminarily approved Montebello Packaging for tax incentives up to $2,068,000 through the Kentucky Business Investment program to encourage the expansion.
This performance-based incentive allows the company to keep a portion of its investment over the term of the agreement through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.
KEDFA also approved Montebello Packaging for tax benefits up to $100,000 through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act. The program allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing equipment.
"Having a community choose your community to lay down roots is a very good thing, but sometimes even more special when an employer is so happy with the people and the place where they choose to expand and build their business," stated Sen. Jimmy Higdon, of Lebanon.
Future of Hawkesbury plan uncertain
The employee stated Montebello Packaging "never said a word" to employees about the expansion.
"I just happened to find the press release online while doing some searching," he remarked. "Something wasn't sitting right...I had a gut feeling something more was going on and then I found that document. The Internet really is an amazing thing."
The employee said he showed members of Local 8252 of the United Steelworkers, the union that represents employees, the document and their reaction was not pleasant.
"Obviously we're angry," he commented. "Employees at our plant get laid off while the plant in Kentucky gets a multi-million dollar expansion and new jobs? Come on!"
He said the company's claims that it laid workers off because demand for product was decreasing are likely bogus.
"We may not be doing well in Hawkesbury, but obviously things are good in Kentucky."
When things weren't going well, the employee said the union worked with the company to make things easier.
"In our last round of bargaining, we came up with a four-year deal with a two-tier pension, a 10 per cent cut to our health care benefits and other measures to help the situation," he explained. "We've worked with the company to make thing easier during tough times and now this happens. It's a kick in the teeth."
Since most of the employees at the Hawkesbury plant have been laid off, the employee said it remains unclear what will happen to the facility.
"We have no idea if they're going to close it or what," he admitted. "No clue at all. There used to be more than 200 people working here. Today, there are only about 30 and how most of those jobs are gone."
The employee said he wants the public to know that there are two sides to every story and he want to make it clear this is another example of Canadian jobs being outsourced to the United States and other countries.
"We have jobs here that get cut, but go to the United States," he said. "It's not right, but that's exactly what is happening. The public needs to know this."