Harbour Grace is latest victim of rampant greed

Brian Jones bjones@thetelegram.com
Published on July 11, 2014
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 in 2008 during the official opening of the expanded plant.

The class war is over. The moneyed classes won.

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.