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180 layoffs start next week as Wescast closes 100-year-old foundry


The familiar hum coming from Wescast’s Wingham, Ont. foundry will fall silent next week, as a big part of the town’s history is shuttered.

“There’s a lot of upset people. They’ve put their blood, sweat, and tears into this place to make it a world class facility. And, to be treated unjustly, the way they’ve [management] been acting, it’s heartbreaking,” explained Wescast Union President, Doug Johnson.

Johnson is one of the 180 Wescast workers who will be laid off next Thursday, as the company’s exhaust manifold casting plant closes its doors. Parts will now be made at Wescast’s Wuhan, China plant and shipped to Wingham for machining, maintaining 100 jobs in Wingham.

Wescast is calling the foundry closure a temporary one, with plans to potentially re-open three years from now.

“The Chinese ownership [Sichuan Bohong] has stated they’d like to shut down temporarily here, and reassess and modify and change equipment, as needed, and hopefully re-open in 2026 and start up production again,” said Johnson.

Employees are more than skeptical that the foundry will ever re-open, and fear that Wescast’s entire Wingham operation will eventually close for good.

“I hope I’m wrong, but I think they will be moving on, if they can capture this work, and make it in their plants in China, I don’t think they’re coming back,” said Wescast Union Plant Chair, Joel Sutton.

The Wescast factory in Wingham, Ont., as seen in August 2019. (Scott Miller/CTV News London) Wescast has a long history in Wingham. The foundry opened in 1902, making cast iron wood stoves. They transitioned to automotive parts in the 1970s, selling primarily exhaust manifolds to companies like Ford, GM and Volvo. In 2013, Wescast was purchased by Sichuan Bohong of China for $200 million.

Sutton said in the early 2000s, more than 800 people worked for Wescast in Wingham. Today, that number is less than 300.

While Wescast isn’t what it once was in Wingham, it’s still the town’s largest employer. And the loss of 180 jobs next week — and possibly more in the future — will impact the community negatively.

“It’s our largest employer in North Huron. A lot of people have worked there for many, many years. We are very concerned about it,” said Township of North Huron Reeve, Paul Heffer.

“It was the employer of choice in the 1990s and early 2000s. I worked there myself from 1996 to 2005. It’s sad to see it close, for sure,” added Wingham Business Improvement Association Chair, Dave Tiffin.

In partnership with Huron County, a job fair for soon-to-be laid off Wescast employees, was held on July 19 in Wingham, with more expected in the weeks and months to come.

“There’s a lot of skilled employees here. They will have no problem find work around. They’re good team members. This is just a setback. They’ll be back up on their feet in no time,” explained Johnson, who worked at Wescast for more than 30 years.

Wescast and their unionized employees are currently negotiating a new collective agreement, trying to come to a consensus on the millions of dollars in severance owed to laid off employees, and what wages and salaries might look like if Wescast’s foundry does reopen, as the company said it plans to do in 2026.

“You gotta hope a little bit, but, can you trust it,” said Johnson.

In the meantime, 180 Wescast foundry workers, many of them decades on the job, will start looking for a new job as of July 27 when a piece of Wingham’s identity and history falls silent. Top Stories

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