Due to a lack of available weapons, Quebec furniture manufacturers plan to move their household items to Mexico.
Posted yesterday at 6:00 am
Far from being limited to the furniture sector, this trend towards “offshoring” seems to affect the entire manufacturing sector, confirms Véronique Proulx, president and CEO of Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Québec (MEQ).
Thus, according to a survey recently conducted by the Quebec Furniture Manufacturers Association (AFMQ) among its 83 members, 33% said they were “studying the possibility of producing” outside the province. The survey did not look at the specific manufacturing locations coveted by companies, but the city of Juarez in northern Mexico appears to attract several, says Gilles Pelletier, president and CEO of AFMQ.
Labor shortages and “abnormally long” delays – 16 months, according to the AFMQ survey – before the arrival of temporary foreign workers are pushing furniture makers to consider other avenues. “Dislike is so high that people are starting to think about producing elsewhere,” says Mr. Pelletier bluntly, during an interview with Press. We receive relocation messages. It’s disturbing. It’s something you didn’t hear often before. »
“In Mexico they have maquiladoras. These are free zones often near US customs. Juarez is one of those places.
“There are economic incentives for companies to settle there and they have access to an abundant labor force,” he explains, adding in the process that the manufacturers who move to Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s countries do not do so with “lack of concern.” “. “.
Réjean Poitras, president and CEO of Amisco, which specializes in furniture made of metal, is one of those who had to make this heartbreaking decision. His company, whose headquarters are in L’Islet, in Chaudière-Appalaches, has a plant in this same region, as well as in Saint-Pascal-de-Kamouraska and Shawinigan. However, Amisco, which produces 400,000 pieces of furniture a year, wants to continue its growth. The manufacturer is currently in final negotiations to lease production space in Juárez. The company wants to start production in early 2023.
“The objective is not to reduce our activities in Quebec,” insists Mr. Poitras. But we are seeing a drop in our productive capacities, not because we are going to lay off people, because we are going to lose people who are going to retire and the hiring difficulties will continue to be great for a long time. It is in this context that we are going to Mexico, in order to maintain and possibly increase our productive activities. »
The big boss of Amisco, which currently has 500 employees, believes that the provincial and federal governments are partly responsible for this situation, since they are not speeding up the process to allow temporary foreign workers to land here.
We need more foreign workers, skilled and unskilled. It is essential that the process of integrating workers be much more fluid, much shorter and better supported in the regions.
Réjean Poitras, President and CEO of Amisco
In Sainte-Croix-de-Lotbinière, furniture manufacturer South Shore, which has two factories in Quebec, also has facilities in Juárez. But that’s not new. South Shore has been established there for a dozen years. Thus, half of the production is made here and the rest, on Mexican soil, explains Jean-Stéphane Tremblay, president and director of operations of the Quebec manufacturer, specialized in online sales. “I can understand that there are some companies that are asking questions and wondering what they are going to do,” he admits.
“If we currently did not have a factory in Mexico, it is clear that settling there would be a solution to consider to alleviate the labor problem we are facing. »
South Shore recently welcomed 12 workers from its Juárez plant to Quebec to fill vacancies at the Coaticook and Sainte-Croix-de-Lotbinière facilities.
“It’s good for us. These are people we know who already work for our organization, underlines Mr. Tremblay. They know our processes, our machines. They come here and can already work. We gave them French classes in Mexico. We bought two houses for accommodate them. »
Furthermore, this “exile” is not without consequences, laments Gilles Pelletier. He mentions in particular the loss of investment and knowledge. Currently, 40% of furniture manufacturing in the country is done in Quebec. “History repeats itself,” he laments. This is what we have seen in other industries such as textiles. We end up with a service industry. »
“All the facilities that we have, the equipment that we have, will remain underutilized, adds Réjean Poitras. There are taxes to pay in Quebec that will be lower. »
“There are many players who may not have the means or the resources to establish themselves elsewhere,” he continues. I think it can go as far as shutting down smaller players. »
This situation affecting the furniture sector does not surprise Véronique Proulx. According to a study published last fall by Manufacturiers et Exportateurs du Québec, 15% of the companies surveyed say they have considered moving between 40% and 50% of their activities outside the province.
“It’s really a last resort,” she says. The federal and provincial immigration departments are not economic departments. We need the government to speed up the process [pour faire venir des gens ici]. »
Furniture manufacturing in Quebec
- 40% of furniture manufacturing in the country takes place in Quebec
- The sector represents more than 20,000 jobs
- 500 companies
- 90% of Quebec’s residential furniture exports go to the United States
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