The company manufactures sanitary cans for the food industry and sustainable inks for the beverage market at the site and was formerly known as Star-Kist Company before being acquired by Crown Cork & Seal Canada in 2003.
'Changes in our customer base'
FoodProductionDaily contacted Crown Metal Packaging Canada, which operates as a subsidiary of Crown Holdings, for confirmation on the closure and is awaiting comment.
The regional newspaper allegedly received a copy of a letter sent to employees regarding the closure from Gordon Bell, regional manager, manufacturing, Crown Holdings.
In the letter, he said: "Plant 257 will cease production by October 2 due to changes in our customer base.
"We will immediately begin the process of working with individual employees and for those of you covered by collective agreements, your union representatives, in an effort to find ways to minimize the adverse impact of this decision on you."
Bell allegedly cited changes in customer base, increased competition and declining volume as reasons behind the decision to shut the can production facility in Chatham and shift the premises into warehouse space with minimal staffing.
Toronto 22-month long strike
Employees at Crown Metal Packaging in Toronto ended a bitter 22-month long strike in July this year.
Workers at the plant, which makes cans for more than 120 kinds of beer including Molson, Labatt and Coors, had not seen a pay raise in nine years, according to The Star regional newspaper.
Contract negotiations broke down after the US firm tried to introduce a two-tiered pay scale that would see new employees earn 42% less than existing workers. It also proposed axing its annual cost-of-living wage increases.
The company subsequently sought to cut pensions and benefit entitlements, and to extend the pay cut to all employees, regardless of seniority.
“We’re pleased the strike’s over,” said Lawrence Hay, United Steelworkers’ lead negotiator in the dispute, at the time. “We’re not so pleased with the terms and conditions.”
The collective agreement resulted in annual wage increases of around 2% for the next six years, but it will not reverse a substantial cut in workers’ salaries.
It is not known if the actions at the Toronto plant are related to the Chatham closure.