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CAW angry over Siemens blade plant location

The Canadian Auto Workers union is not happy with Siemens Canada’s decision to build a new wind turbine blade manufacturing plant in Tillsonburg, Ont. rather than doing the production at the company’s Hamilton plant, destined to close in July.


December 2, 2010
by PLANT STAFF

Siemens wind turbines on the job at the Black Law Wind Farm in the UK.

Photo: Siemens

WINDSOR, Ont.: The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union is not happy with Siemens Canada’s decision to build a new wind turbine blade manufacturing plant in Tillsonburg, Ont. rather than doing the production at the company’s Hamilton plant, destined to close in July.

 “This is absolutely unacceptable,” said CAW president Ken Lewenza. “There was every indication that the Hamilton plant could be re-tooled for this work to be done there, saving hundreds of jobs.”

 Lewenza, not happy with the Ontario government either, described the news as a shock and an “utter disappointment.”

 “Multi-national corporations don’t care where they set up, but governments must show leadership,” said Lewenza. “This has happened because the Ontario government lacked the tenacity to ensure Siemens respected a local commitment.”

 CAW Local 504 represents 350 of the 550 workers at the Hamilton facility.

 Siemens has announced the $20-million blade factory, intended to handle all its demand from the province, will be installed in an existing 253,000-square-foot facility located on 40 acres in the southwestern town. The blades will be for Siemens’ 2.3-megawatt wind turbines. 

 The site was selected from a number of locations, said the global electronics and electrical engineering firm based in Germany with Canadian headquarters in Mississauga, Ont. One important reason Tillsonburg was chosen is its access to major highways and the wide roads needed to transport the blades (up to 52 metres) long. 

 The plant is expected to create 300 jobs.

 Siemens announced in March it was closing the Hamilton plant to consolidate all of its North American production of 60-hertz gas turbines at a plant in Charlotte, NC.

 “This news is a final slap in the face to the Hamilton workforce and represents a total disregard by both the company and the Ontario government,” said CAW Local 504 president Randy Smith. “It’s extremely offensive that the government promotes this initiative as new jobs being created in the province, while at the same time failing to preserve existing ones.”

 Meanwhile, job-depressed Windsor, an automotive industry city hard-hit by the recession, is also getting some wind industry development. The Ontario government says a new wind tower manufacturing plant will bring as many as 700 jobs to the southwestern Ontario city.

 The Ontario government said the plant, part of the province’s $7-billion green energy agreement with Samsung, will create up to 300 direct jobs and up to 400 construction and service jobs.

The plant will be built and run by a new Ontario subsidiary of CS Wind, a Korean-based company that has partnered with Samsung. The plant is to be operational by next October and will turn out 200 to 300 turbine towers a year.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association said Canada has 3,549 megawatts of installed wind energy capacity, one third of it (1,298 megawatts) in Ontario, one third in Quebec (663 megawatts) and Alberta (656 megawatts), and the remaining provinces accounting for the rest.

Wind power capacity in Canada is expected to increase to more than 15,000 megawatts in 2020 and provide approximately 11% of the country’s total generated power.

PLANT, with files from Canadian Press