Employees react to McCain Foods plant closure

Colin MacLean colin.maclean@tc.tc
Published on August 7, 2014

John Bryant has worked at McCain Foods in Albany for the past ten years but Thursday he learned that he and 120 others were out of a job. Colin MacLean/Journal Pioneer

ALBANY – At 43-years-old and a wife and three kids at home, John Bryant is faced with having to start over.

Bryant, of Summerside, has been a chemical technician at McCain Foods’ french fry plant in Albany for the past 10 years.

Thursday he went to work only to find out he and the other 120 people at the plant were out of a job.

“There’s a lot of people in shock – really in shock that it’s happening,” said Bryant as he was leaving the plant.

“Everyone is leaving pretty depressed. Some people got to start over that have been here for 20 or 30 years, so I mean what are they going to do, where are they going to go from here?”

McCain Foods broke the news to staff first thing Thursday morning.

The plant will be closing for good as of Oct. 31, 2014.

In a statement to media, McCain’s management blamed market forces and a strong Canadian dollar for the closure.

“Production at the P.E.I. plant has declined by two-thirds over the last decade and the plant is now the smallest and least utilized facility in McCain’s North American network,” they said.

Frank van Schaayk, president-Americas for McCain Foods, said the closure was unfortunate, but necessary for the company.

“Closing a plant is one of the toughest decisions we ever face,” said van Schaayk.

“We deeply regret the personal impact the closure will have on our P.E.I. employees, and we are committed to providing support and resources to those affected.”

People like Teejay Foley, who worked an all-night shift Wednesday and Thursday only to find out through Facebook that he was out of a job.

“It’s pretty grim. A lot of discouraged people, a lot of disappointed people for sure. But it is what it is,” he said.

Foley, who helped run the plant’s fryer for the past five years, said he’s trying to keep an upbeat attitude about the situation, but he feels bad for his co-workers.

“There’s a lot of people who worked their asses off here every day only to get a slap in the face. But I guess that’s typical of this type of big company nowadays,” he said.

McCain’s has said that it’s offering its employees severance packages, retirement benefits and retraining options.

The company has also offered the province $2 million (with stipulations) that is supposed to be used to help build economic development in the communities around the plant, which is in Albany but borders on the larger community of Borden-Carleton.

Employees who spoke with the Journal Pioneer did express relief that they would be getting those severance packages. Individual meetings are being set up with each employee to discuss their situation on a case-by-case basis.

Foley’s meeting was scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

He’s not sure what he’s going to do once that money runs out – but it might not be on P.E.I.

“Looks like Alberta might be getting some more workers.”