Being out of work with no job prospects on the horizon is not what Randy Perkins thought he would be facing at this stage in his life, but that's exactly the predicament he finds himself in today. "I'm 53, I don't know what I'm going to do," says Perkins, one of the 62 plant employees at Curwood Packaging Ltd. who will finish their last day at the company today (Friday). In all, by the time the Georgetown plant closes after 37 years in business on March 22, 137 people, some with more than 30 years at the company, will be unemployed. Perkins, an 18-year Curwood employee who works as a packer, says the executive from the company's U.S. head office who broke the news the plant was closing to shocked employees late last month, spoke no more than a dozen words, then left the room. "Everybody was stunned," he says. "I left, I went straight home." He can't believe the way employees have been tossed aside. "It's like someone slapping you in the face and wanting to borrow money off you five minutes later," says the longtime Georgetown resident. But Perkins has come to terms with his situation. "I'm a survivor. I'm a realist. I know it's
over. We just have to move on," he says. Even though he doesn't drive and is limited to finding work in town, Perkins, who is single with no kids, says his situation is not as bad as it is for some of his co-workers who have big mortgages and big families. For the first time in his life he's put together a resume (the company provided a consultant to show the displaced workers how), and he's mapping out his job search. "Word of mouth is probably better than the employment centre. I'm pretty well open to anything," says Perkins. Gord Rozell, another longtime Curwood employee, is carefully considering his work options and is thinking about going back to school to train for a different career. Coping with the plant closure has been difficult, says the printer who has worked at Curwood for 17 years. "I was shocked. I didn't see it coming," says Rozell, 44, who just recently married and has two children from a previous marriage. "It's almost like a mourning process." But he's trying to remain positive. "It's just a setback. I have a good wife behind me," says Rozell, a Wasaga Beach resident, who will also put in his last day at the company today.
Bob McCandless, a 23-year Curwood employee who works as a warehouseman, is also looking positively toward the future. "I'll be fine. I'll find work," says McCandless, 45, married with two children. He says he already has some job prospects lined up. McCandless, a steward with Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers (CEP) Union of Canada, Local 591G, says lower management at the Georgetown plant has been helping the employees cope with the closure, but that's not been the case with upper management. "Upper management has not said a word to the people in the plant. I think there's some bitterness in the fact that nobody really dealt face to face with us." He says so far all the company's offered the employees is the bare minimum for severance-- one week for every year of service, but the union and company have set another negotiation date. Union president Norm Beattie says the community has rallied around the Curwood employees. On hand for an information meeting Saturday that drew about 100 Curwood workers were union officials, Halton Hills Mayor Rick Bonnette, Halton MPP Ted Chudleigh, and representatives from Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong's office, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, Federal Service Canada and Halton Region. At the meeting Bonnette announced the Town would provide a room in Mold-Masters SportsPlex to be used as a job adjustment Action Centre beginning tentatively the first week of March. Bonnette says the Town and Union immediately contacted Curwood officials and pressed for a financial contribution. They were successful, and got $25,000 for the adjustment process, which matches a $25,000 provincial contribution. "I am pleased that in this difficult time, Curwood employees will have this one location where they can get comprehensive information on retraining options, employment insurance benefits, job search support and other counseling," says Bonnette.