Harbour Grace is latest victim of rampant greed

Brian
Brian Jones
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The class war is over. The moneyed classes won.

SHOE IN -- Dave Gill, general manager Terra Nova Shoes (far left) shows some of the boots manufactured for the Canadian Forces at Terra Nova's Harbour Grace operation. Premier Danny Williams, Business Minister Paul Oram and Justice Minister Jerome Kennedy, MHA Carbonear-Harbour Grace were among those who had a first-hand look at some of the steps in the manufacturing process last week during the official opening of the expanded plant. (Denise Pike photo) For more on the story please see this week's print edition.

To use a timely sporting analogy, the working class and middle class are Brazil, and the moneyed classes are Germany.

In the class war, as in soccer, the loss was lopsided, devastating and pitifully painful for the losers’ supporters to witness. At least the Germans had enough class not to gloat, which is more than can be said for the capitalists and their bevy of lackey politicians.

Kodiak Group Holdings announced this week it is closing the Terra Nova Shoes factory in Harbour Grace and moving its operations to its headquarters in Cambridge, Ont.

Eighty-six employees at Terra Nova Shoes will either lose their jobs or move to Ontario.

Companies shutting down, packing up and moving on has become common. Heinz left Leamington, Ont., throwing 740 people out of work. Caterpillar left London, Ont., de-employing 465 workers. Hershey’s Chocolate left Smiths Falls, Ont., for Mexico, tossing 800 people out.

Globalization has been swell for the moneyed classes. For working people, it’s been somewhat less so.

Of course, “globalization” is an icky euphemism for “moving production facilities to a Third-World sweatshop.”

If globalization really meant a free-flowing worldwide interchange of goods and services, it wouldn’t matter one whit whether Kodiak boots were made in Harbour Grace or Cambridge.

According to Industry Canada’s website, Kodiak Group Holdings exports its products to 24 states and countries. The first three on the list are Algeria, Australia and Austria. When you’re shipping halfway around the world, the short journey from Harbour Grace to Cambridge can’t add much to cost or time.

But globalization’s obnoxious little brother — “efficiency” — demands that nickels and dimes be squeezed out of employees and transferred to the dividends of shareholders or earnings of owners.

Kodiak Group Holdings is a subsidiary of Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Co., based in Fort Worth, Texas. According to Forbes magazine, Dickies — as it is popularly known — has annual revenue of about $1 billion. The company was co-founded and is now wholly owned by the Williamson family of Texas.

Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Co. purchased Kodiak Group Holdings — and thus Terra Nova Shoes — in 2008.

Coincidently, 2008 was the year the government of Newfoundland and Labrador gave an $8-million interest-free loan to Kodiak Group Holdings.

Ordinary people — workers and taxpayers, say — might assume that when their political representatives lend pocket change to billionaires, they would at least include certain conditions.

Such as, if the company makes layoffs — as Kodiak did in 2010, when it let go 59 employees in Harbour Grace — interest rates on the loan will kick in.

Such as, if the company decides to board up the factory — as it announced this week — interest rates will kick in, retroactive to 2008.

If any such protective measures accompanied the loan to Kodiak Group, Newfoundland (and Labrador) politicians didn’t mention it this week. Instead, they talked about helping soon-to-be-laid-off Terra Nova Shoes workers and offering them “all available employment supports and services.”

The government is loath to admit to layoffs. Two ministerial statements this week referred to “displaced workers.” In terms of public discourse, it’s a full-time job keeping track of available euphemisms.

Kodiak Group Holdings didn’t even have the decency to tell its Harbour Grace employees they can automatically keep their transferred job if they choose to move to Cambridge. Instead, Terra Nova Shoes employees must apply for the job that they used to have.

Society has moved far beyond the famous 1980s movie line that “greed is good.” These days, greed is rampant, accepted, admired and glorified — an ignoble fact that is reflected in our economy and in our politics.

 

 Brian Jones is a desk editor at

The Telegram. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com

and can be found on Facebook.

Organizations: Terra Nova Shoes, Kodiak Group Holdings, Industry Canada Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Co. Forbes magazine Texas.Williamson-Dickie Manufacturing Co. Kodiak Group Holdings.Ordinary The Telegram

Geographic location: Harbour Grace, Cambridge, Brazil Newfoundland and Labrador Leamington London, Ont. Smiths Falls Mexico Algeria Australia Austria Fort Worth, Texas

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Recent comments

  • Charles Murphy
    July 15, 2014 - 04:56

    Paul Brake, Your kind of thinking, that what keep us behind. I have no problem with Government investing in local business's, But when they are passing out money to outside business's , that another thing, Majority of those outside business's will come here long enough to pick our pockets, then head bad where they came from. This is where our Government is going wrong, We need people of " Vision " for our people, Any benefit from our resource's should be there for Newfoundlanders and Labradorian.

  • Paul Brake the Newfoundland Libertarian
    July 14, 2014 - 14:04

    It all boils down to the free market, or lack thereof. Every single time the government sticks its nose into the economy in any fashion, the result is catastrophic. I would be interested to find out what sweetheart backroom deal the Ontario Government signed with Kodiak. Wynne is famous for those types of deals with a $1.2 Billion gas plant scandal, ORNGE and MaRS. Now the government of Newfoundland has taken $8 Million our of your pockets and handed it over to a corporation who has taken the money and ran. See, government intervention at work. Let the market along and it will grow naturally and organically.

  • john
    July 14, 2014 - 13:23

    Greed is everywhere but people are too happy with reality tv, video games, netflix and other mind numbing recreation to do anything about it. I'd advise everyone to vote with their wallet, buy products they know are local and were produced with their standard of ethics. It may cost more but in the end it's the only way to defeat the Walmarts and William-Dickie Manufacturing Co.'s of the world.

  • Bob Drouin
    July 13, 2014 - 09:15

    Great article. Gets right to the heart of the matter: rampant greed! Governments have to do a better job of stipulating and enforcing conditions to hand-outs to corporations who are taking advantage of tax payer largess. I can't see moving to Ontario as an option for theses workers. I live in Ontario, and we have just re-elected a corrupt and inept government, with the provincial finances in complete disarray. I feel sorry for the legacy we are leaving our children in this have not province.

  • Diocletian
    July 11, 2014 - 19:55

    If Brian Jones is Germany and Lies/Greed/and canting hypocrisy is Brazil, ol Brian will win every time. He is by far the best journalist in the province. He seems to be about the only one with the cohones to take on our ruling elite and smirking business leaders. The lack of the interest clause kicking in is especially interesting as at the time of this contract for interest free loans ( methinks my bank would give me the bum's rush if I asked for such) our province was ruled by a great mega legal brain premier.Nobly done,Mr.Jones!

  • Diocletian
    July 11, 2014 - 19:54

    If Brian Jones is Germany and Lies/Greed/and canting hypocrisy is Brazil, ol Brian will win every time. He is by far the best journalist in the province. He seems to be about the only one with the cohones to take on our ruling elite and smirking business leaders. The lack of the interest clause kicking in is especially interesting as at the time of this contract for interest free loans ( methinks my bank would give me the bum's rush if I asked for such) our province was ruled by a great mega legal brain premier.Nobly done,Mr.Jones!

  • marg
    July 11, 2014 - 13:26

    yes...because last time I checked we live in a capitalist society not a socialist one....

  • Doug
    July 11, 2014 - 12:32

    "If globalization really meant a free-flowing worldwide interchange of goods and services, it wouldn’t matter one whit whether Kodiak boots were made in Harbour Grace or Cambridge." There is a reason why I do not drive to Nfld very often...it costs a small fortune to take the ferry across and back. There is a reason why there is little to nil manufacturing going on in Nfld...it costs a small fortune to ship raw materials in and ship the finished product out. In a competative golbal market, that is a serious cost penalty. You can argue many other aspect of this closure and transfer of jobs but that statement from the article is simple nonsense.

  • Lorraine Pretty
    July 11, 2014 - 12:02

    Mr Barnes, If you so concern about your community. Then do yourself a favor. Call Charles Murphy, he can help. the man the Liberals said no too, you'll be surprise.

    • Dood
      July 11, 2014 - 19:21

      Me thinks you r Mr. Murphy.

  • Thomas
    July 11, 2014 - 11:05

    The worker's in that plant make pittance. However given the housing climate in Hr. Grace the cost of living is manageable. Given the plight of the town folks there who own their homes will never realize the full value upon sale nor recoup what they have put into them. If successful in gaining employment in Cambridge (I feel sick) they will relocate their lives, family and everything they know to a mediocre paying job and be far worse off than they are today. And guess what? The company and union in Cambridge are counting on you not applying. But really why does this come as a shock despite government prop ups to industry? We saw it in Stephenville and Grand Falls. The mill in Corner Brook is always a cord of wood away from going under. It is greed. And greed is not good.

  • Jackson's Arm
    July 11, 2014 - 10:55

    People of Harbour Grace, I feel so sorry for your lost. I was listening to Dwight Ball on the Paddy Daly show, concerning what's going on in your community, But I can tell you one thing, from past experience with Dwight and Liberals, Don't hold your breath, Because if your looking for help from him and the rest of his party. forget its. Just as will you start packing your bags now. Dwight only solution is talk, follow by more talk. which mount to nothing.

  • Mark
    July 11, 2014 - 08:10

    Phenomenal commentary. Nailed corporate greed, as well as the former Williams government for their shortsighted mistakes.

  • Laurie Blackwood Pike
    July 11, 2014 - 07:08

    You got it right, Brian. Profit is the motive that keeps our economy functioning, but as we say here in Newfoundland, 'much wants more'. Greed has killed a lot of good companies. For a while it was the unionised worker...now it has become more the shareholder.

  • Charles Murphy
    July 11, 2014 - 05:35

    Mr Jones, Do you really wanted to know, why N & L " Continue " to fail? Will I'll tell you, Its because of the people we elects to " Represent " us in Government, Prime example is whats going on with this factory, Instead of a solution, just hands out, Then the " Hell " with you afterwards.