The more than 100 years of history that unite Boulangerie Gadoua with the people of Napierville were not enough to save the Montérégie factory, the cradle of the Quebec company.
Last week, Toronto-based Wonderbrands, a subsidiary of giant FGF Brands, announced the permanent closure of the sliced bread factory, where generations of workers have worked since its founding in 1911.
“We didn’t expect it at all,” says Hugo Racette, gathered in front of the factory on Monday, toasting a cigar. We found out at 7 am on the way home. And again the night before, they were onboarding new employees… For me, as for everyone here, it was a complete surprise. »
Photo Martin Jolicoeur
The workers our reporters spoke to said they were in shock that there were no warning signs of a shutdown.
Like the approximately 150 workers in the bread factory, the professional oven operator learned that day that he would lose his job in three months… And this, at the same time as his wife, also an employee of Gadoua. A hard blow for the couple.
“They gave us 12 weeks in advance, when we will have to continue working. But no compensation is provided. After 25 years with the same employer, I can tell you that it is not easy. »
A region in shock
The scare seemed to be shared by all the residents of the small municipality of 7,000 inhabitants, during our visit. “The Gadoua family is still in Napierville. It touches me deeply. We all have someone who works in Gadoua. We were attached to the company, it comes to touch us”, the prefect of the MRC Jardins-de-Napierville, Yves Boyer, confided to us on Monday, still under the influence of emotion.
The same amazement is found at Napierville City Hall, which is housed in the same building where the first Gadoua Bakery was born. Known on the spot, Mayor Chantale Pelletier was at a loss for words to express her dismay.
Photo Martin Jolicoeur
Gadoua’s first factory, opened in 1911, now home to Napierville City Hall.
“The current owners have never called us for help or to advise us of a problem. If we had known, maybe we would have been able to do something, ”she says, worried about the fate of the future former employees of the factory. “Finding yourself without a job, in the current context of a possible recession, nobody wants that. »
Wonderbrands refused to grant us an interview, based on an email statement confirming the end of operations at the factory in mid-April.
“We have made considerable efforts in recent years to invest in and improve plant operations. However, despite these efforts, the plant presents several insurmountable difficulties (…)”, says the company, also committing to maintain its productive activities in Longueuil and Gatineau.
That said, none of the employees about to lose their jobs in Napierville have been guaranteed a job at any of those other plants, confirms 44-year-old shop steward and packinghouse operator Marie-Claude Provost.
An occasion ?
“Affects everyone. But it’s even worse for employees with 30 or 40 years of experience, he says. For them, it is more emotional. Many cried and I understand them. »
The lack of effort in modernizing the plant in recent decades would explain, in his opinion, this closure. “When a plant is old and investments have not been up to par, we end up with productivity that is not up to par with its counterparts. I feel like that’s what happened here. »
Before the factory closes its doors for good, the region’s elected officials await an emergency meeting with Quebec to explore the various possibilities for reactivation. With any luck, they think, maybe another company could take advantage of the upcoming availability of 150 workers?
GADOUA IN BRIEF
Founding place: Napierville, Monteregie
Factory area: 6600 square meters
Number of current employees: 100 to 150 employees
SOME KEY DATES
1911 Foundation of the company by Wilfrid Gadoua
2004 The Gadoua family sells the business to the Weston company
2021 Weston sells business to FGF Brands, parent company of Wonderbrands
2023 On the morning of January 11, Wonderbrands management announces the closure to employees. The plant will definitely stop producing in April.
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