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When I was 16 growing up in London I was hired at Mc Cormick’s to work in the factory. I was assigned to put in my time and sweat into making fig bars on ‘D’ oven.

Mc Cormicks was founded in 1911; for over 90 years it was a “leading Canadian manufacturer of quality confectionary and baked goods that were sold in Canada and the United States.

In 1997 Chicago Based Beta Brands secured the large debt. In 2004 Sun Capital Partners with headquarters in Florida, a specialist in underperforming enterprises acquired the company.January 3rd , 2007 Textron Inc. based in New York who was the principle creditor placed Beta Brands into receivership.

I took the time to drive over to the factory to read/acquire a copy of the Notice of Termination of Employment notice. “The employer has been placed in Court-appointed Receivership..... The employer has ceased operations and is no longer carrying on any form of active business.”

Two hundred and seventy -five Londoners with a stroke of the pen have lost their livelihood.

I had the privilege to speak to Karl Walker, International Representative (BCTGM) Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco & Grain Miller’s Union to try and ascertain the reasons why the company ceased operations.

The plant doesn’t have a flow through operation and the high Canadian Dollar /exchange rates have hurt the bottom line. Beta Brand sold off the bakery division to Bremner Biscuits, Missouri U S of A and is trucking the ovens and machinery out of London.

The lucrative ‘Life Saver’ brand name division was sold off to Kraft Foods in 2005 Hard to make money when you sell off your successes.

The plant workers were advised that they would be laid off for the first two weeks of January. On December 29 the union was sent a fax from Textron’s charted accountants, Mintz & Partners, of the closing of the plant. The union has gone to court to try and secure severance, termination and vacation pay for their union members. The pension plan that was in existence ceased in 1997 and was replaced by a registered retirement plan paid for by the company and workers.

I always assumed that employees (salaries) were looked on as secured creditors. Wrong. The factory workers are unsecured creditors and have to line up to get their monies.

What happens now? The creditors will try and sell of the remaining candy business. The receiver auctions off the machinery, building and land to the highest bidder. The land and buildings asset value is estimated to be $4,361,000 Check out www.mintzca.com and click on the Insolvency-Beta list of names and amount owing. The employees are estimated to be owed five million dollars. The City of London was not in court to try and block the proceedings and are one of the unsecured creditors who may not see the accrued taxes of $74,928.

When you check out the mailing list you will discover 583 people/companies are listed as unsecured creditors. The 275 workers amount owing is listed as ‘unknown’.

Many of the displaced workers are long time employees with twenty-five years of service to the company. They had looked forward to their hard earned retirement and now their world has been turned upside down. Louise Bradshaw age sixty spent 44 years working on the line at Mc Cormick’s. She started work at the age of 16. She enjoyed her job and social interaction with her co-workers. Louise was shocked and dismayed that the workers were never told in advance of the possible closing of the plant. She had to hear the news on the radio on her way to work.

Some of her fellow workers had purchased homes and cars assuming that they had secure positions and are now scrambling to find work.

Louise has lost her job and now has to search for part time employment.

When you call the plant office you hear the message: ‘have a nice day’.

For hundreds of Londoners the closing of the plant is an unhappy reality of the fate of industry in the Forest City.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com