John Deere Welland Works Closure Agreement

January 15, 2009, 11:12 AM EST

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CAW Local 275 members at John Deere in Welland, Ontario have overwhelmingly voted in favour of a closure agreement that provides an enhanced severance package.

The closure agreement also contains an early retirement option, as well as health and life insurance benefits for up to one year for employees who are not eligible for retirement.

Workers at the plant voted 97 per cent in favour of the agreement, which sets a projected closure date for the John Deere Welland Works of November 1.

"The bargaining committee worked extremely hard to come up with the best agreement possible despite the tough economic circumstances," said Hemi Mitic, assistant to the CAW President. "The closure of this plant is a blow to the workers and the entire community of Welland, but this agreement will help workers and their families adjust to this tough news," Mitic said.

Under the enhanced severance benefit, workers get four weeks pay for the first year of employment or less and 2.5 weeks pay per year for subsequent years up to a maximum of 65 weeks pay. Employees must remain until their company set release date to qualify.

For workers who qualify a special early retirement window has been created from February 28 to October 31 which increases the supplemental allowance to $2,700.

Those who remain at Welland Works until release dates set by the company receive health and life insurance benefits for up to one year following layoff. Members who are eligible to retire receive post-retirement health care benefits. It's not clear when layoffs will start, but the first major round is expected around the end of April. Further cuts will occur between April and November.

The closure agreement also provides $200,000 toward the operation of an adjustment committee. The CAW and the company will be approaching the provincial government for additional funds for retraining and job search programs.

Local President Tom Napper and plant chairperson Tom Harriettha said the bargaining committee was able to negotiate the best agreement possible under tough circumstances because of the solidarity of the membership.

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