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Heinz deal highlights positive role of government

TORONTO, Feb. 27, 2014 /CNW/ - Today's announcement that more than a third of the jobs at the Heinz plant in Leamington, Ontario, will be saved shows what can happen when all stakeholders work together - and the positive role government can play in securing good jobs, Unifor National President Jerry Dias says.

"This good news would not have been possible without all levels of government taking seriously their role in securing stable jobs, and working with business and labour to achieve that," Dias said.

In the deal announced this morning, Highbury Canco Corporation will take over the Heinz plant to make tomato juice for the company, a fixture in Leamington for 105 years. Heinz announced last November it would close the plant this June, throwing 800 people out of work.

Dias said much work remains to help those who will still be without a job, but today's announcement - in which Highbury said it looks forward to working with "Heinz, local farmers, UFCW 459, and all three levels of government" - is a positive step forward made possible by bringing stakeholders, including government, to the table to work through what was needed.

It's much the same situation in nearby Windsor, where Chrysler is seeking $700 million from the federal and provincial governments to go along with its own $3.2 billion investment to keep its assembly plant there operating for another generation, Dias said.

"In times like these, we all need to just roll up our sleeves, learn to work together, and get the job done," Dias said. "Too much is at stake for politicians to play silly ideological games while jobs are lost and futures put on hold."

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak's has said that Chrysler is holding the province "ransom" by asking government to invest in the plant's future.

"Hopefully, Mr. Hudak will learn from Leamington that there is a positive role to play for government in these situations, and that throwing around words like 'ransom' doesn't help at all," Dias said.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, with more than 300,000 members. It was founded Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Autoworkers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.