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Laid off workers seeking severance say 'Shame on Wescast'


Laura Collison spent much of her adult life making exhaust manifolds at the Wescast foundry in Wingham, Ont.

“I’ve worked at Wescast for 44 years, along with all my children who had jobs here. It provided jobs to generations of people,” she said.

But that ended July 27, 2023, when 180 Wescast foundry employees were laid off. The work they did moved to China.

“We have it in our collective agreement that if they take our work and move it to China, which they did, we get an enhanced severance. They’re not paying the enhanced severance. They aren’t paying any severance and they refuse to talk to us,” said Terry Brighton, who was laid off from Wescast after 39 years at the facility.

Wescast’s owners, Sichuan Bohong Group from China, called last July’s layoff “temporary.”

They said they intended to find new financing, contracts, and equipment, with plans to reopen in 2026.

That left long-time employees in limbo. Leave, get another job and lose your severance, or remain in limbo in hopes the 2026 plans materialize.

Two long-time Wescast employees take part in a Unifor rally on April 25, 2024, calling on Wescast to pay 180 laid off employees severance and termination pay. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

Brighton said, in a cruel twist, at least 30 laid off workers were recalled by the company in March, only to have the recall cancelled at the last minute.

“Bohong bought this place in 2013 and they’ve been making promises to get the north plant ready for new business for GM, Ford, and Chrysler. It’s been lies all the way through. We’re very scared this time it’s going to be a lie too. We keep our fingers crossed for the community that they are going to open up the north plant, but you can’t believe what the owners say to you. They look you right in the eye and lie to you, and we feel they are lying to us this time,” said Brighton.

On April 1, Wescast’s “temporary” layoff became permanent because it lasted at least 35 weeks in a 52 week period, thus entitling employees to request severance and termination pay, according to Ontario Labour laws.

Unifor has contacted the Ontario Director of Employment Standards and Labour Ministry to get involved, as Wescast’s laid off workers can’t access their pensions or severance, which collectively equals as much as $10 million.

Unifor National Representative Tyson Siddall speaks outside Wescast Industries in Wingham on April 25, 2024. (Scott Miller/CTV News London)

“Manulife is withholding funds here. Wescast is not paying severance or termination pay. Under the law, that is owed to these members. Just seems like our government is inactive, allowing this to happen,” said Tyson Siddall, Unifor National representative.

Wescast’s former workers, many with more than 30 years at the plant, are frustrated, fed up, and some of them ready to give up.

“My unemployment is running out. I could live on the street here soon,” said 44-year Wescast worker Collison.

“Wescast owes these folks their money. It’s long overdue. We’ve come to the point where enough is enough,” said Siddall.

CTV News contacted Wescast for comment on Thursday’s Unifor rally, the severance situation, and the company’s plans for their Wingham facilities, but did not receive a response by this article’s publication time.

Approximately 30 people are still employed at Wingham’s Wescast machining facility, machining auto parts that were once made in Wingham, but are now being made in China and shipped to Wingham for finishing. Top Stories

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