Canadian RV Builder Hires Ex-Fleetwood Workers
There’s apparently a light at the end of the tunnel for roughly 75% of Fleetwood Canada’s former employees. On Friday (Dec.21), the City of Kawartha Lakes joined forces with the management team of Great Lakes Recreational Products Inc. to announce production of travel trailers and fifth-wheels at the Mount Hope Street plant.
Production of the vehicles, manufactured under the brand Great Lakes RV, will begin in January. President and CEO Paul Perras told Kawartha Lakes This Week that the company contract should be finalized on Jan. 15, although they expected to be in the building before the first of the year. “If all goes well,” said Perras, “we hope to have our first trailer roll out the end of January.”
Great Lakes RV expects to hire roughly 300 employees over the next three months of operations, and former Fleetwood employees from the Lindsay, Ont., plant with recall rights will be given first consideration for positions. “We definitely want them back,” said Perras, adding that it was a sad day when it was announced that the Canadian facility operated by Riverside, Calif.-based Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. was to close in July, leaving more than 400 employees out of work.
UNITE HERE Local 1381, the union representing the former workers, noted that the reopening of the plant is a victory for workers and the community. “We’re glad to see today’s announcement,” stated Alex Dagg, director of UNITE HERE’s Ontario council. “We’ve been engaged in this process since Fleetwood announced the closure and have been working hard with our members, local politicians and the new ownership team at Great Lakes Recreational Products to do everything possible to preserve these jobs for Lindsay.”
Members of the union local, who worked at the former Fleetwood plant, voted 80% in favor of accepting an agreement that would allow for the new company to become operational. The agreement, which contains some wage and benefit concessions, was an integral part of establishing the conditions for Great Lakes Recreational Products to maintain the plant in the Lindsay area. It also contains the option for union members to voluntarily invest in the company.
Dion Gemmiti, vice-president of business development for Great Lakes Recreational Products Inc., is especially pleased with how “people rallied to make this happen,” saying a concerted effort by the company’s management group, former employees, local residents and businesses, provincial and federal representatives, financial advisors and the City of Kawartha Lakes was pivotal. “We are thrilled to start production and begin working with dealers in both Canada and the U.S. to satisfy the needs of consumers in the RV industry,” Gemmiti stated.
Perras said the company’s management style will have a focus that nurtures a positive work environment, providing increased communication with employees – something that previously was sorely missing. For example, time clocks are to disappear for all salaried employees.
Meanwhile, Mayor Ric McGee was pleased to welcome the new company to town, thrilled to be able to provide many of the former Fleetwood employees with an early Christmas present. Both Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Barry Devolin and MPP Laurie Scott echoed sentiments that the announcement is great news for the whole community.