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Deere to shut Ontario plant

A southern Ontario factory making John Deere’s Gator utility vehicles and farm equipment attachments is expected to close by the end of 2009, with its work shipped to the U.S. and Mexico.

Deere and Co. announced Tuesday that it will close its plant at Welland, Ont., southwest of Niagara Falls, affecting about 800 workers.

The Welland plant’s production of Gator utility vehicles will be shifted to the company’s plant at
Horicon, Wis., where other Gator models and other Deere riding lawn equipment are built. Horicon is about 60 km northwest of Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, production of Deere cutting and loading attachments for the company’s agricultural, commercial and consumer equipment businesses will be transferred to Deere installations in Monterrey and Saltillo, Mexico, the company said.

The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), which represents about 750 of the Welland plant’s staff, has been advised of the decision and invited to have further discussions about the transition and its effect on employees, the company said.

The CAW, in a separate statement Tuesday, said Deere’s plans call for a third of the work to be moved to the U.S. in November this year, with the remainder headed for Mexico by the time the plant shuts its doors in November 2009. The union said Deere has manufactured equipment at Welland for about 100 years.

“The company has assured the union that there will no layoffs until spring of 2009,” the union said.

CAW Local 275 president Tom Napper on Tuesday called Deere’s announcement a “disaster” for the Niagara region.

“Now, there are so few places to work — this was one facility that was looked to as a positive example in the community and without proper political intervention, it may be gone too.”

In the same release, CAW national president Buzz Hargrove called the announcement especially disturbing, given recent “massive” manufacturing job losses in the region.

“We will be contacting the federal, provincial and municipal governments immediately to intervene to keep this facility open,” he said, but blamed the closure on the current federal government’s “indifference.”

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