Layoffs at Stanfield's a blow to community, says MLA

·4 min read
Stanfield's, in business since 1856 and in Truro since 1870,  had pivoted from underwear to manufacturing hospital gowns under government contract in 2020. (Vernon Ramesar/CBC - image credit)
Stanfield's, in business since 1856 and in Truro since 1870, had pivoted from underwear to manufacturing hospital gowns under government contract in 2020. (Vernon Ramesar/CBC - image credit)

The local MLA says the loss of 150 jobs at Stanfield's in Truro, N.S., is a blow to the community.

The company, a fixture in the community for more than 150 years, recently lost a government contract to manufacture medical gowns.

David Ritcey said the layoffs announced Friday are a hardship, especially with 55 jobs lost at the local RCMP communication centre that is moving to Dartmouth.

"The great thing about this partnership was that we have another local company providing the fabric ... it was a really good community business partnership that helped Canadians," he said.

Looking for other opportunities

Ritcey said he has written to Lenore Zann, the MP for Cumberland-Colchester, requesting a meeting to see what other opportunities are available for Stanfield's in the federal tender process.

In the meantime, he said he has been receiving "numerous calls" from employees of the company.

Jon Stanfield, the company's chairman, CEO and president, did not reply to messages seeking an interview.

Ritcey said Stanfield cares about his employees and having to let them go "broke his heart."

He said the Stanfield family has been a staple in the community for a very long time.

Jon Stanfield is president and CEO of Stanfield's Ltd.
Jon Stanfield is president and CEO of Stanfield's Ltd.

He said he is confident that Stanfield will find a way to keep the company going,

"He's going to find a way to help Stanfield's continue and find a way to help Nova Scotians and Canadians with another opportunity, whatever that may be."

'They had this planned'

One worker contacted Sunday said she is unhappy with the way the layoffs were handled.

Alisabeth Legge, part of Friday's layoffs, said workers were "crowded" into a small room minutes before the end of their shift and told the news by Allan Henley, the vice-president of operations.

She said a supervisor had told her earlier in the week that the company was aware it didn't get the contract, but "waited until the last minute" to tell employees.

"They had this planned and had papers to give out and a speech ready to read, but yet waited 16 minutes until our shift was over and gave us no time to look for new employment or get our applications in to EI," Legge said.

The garment manufacturer had laid off much of its staff in March 2020 after the pandemic played havoc with its sales.

Stanfield approached the federal government about manufacturing the gowns, which were in demand at the time.

At the end of last March, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that Stanfield's would be manufacturing PPE for health-care workers.

Ottawa provided Stanfield's with just under $28 million to retool and reconfigure its facility for the new work. The company was able to bring back many of the employees laid off just weeks before.

MP Lenore Zann said she is disappointed and worried about the workers.
MP Lenore Zann said she is disappointed and worried about the workers.

Zann said the initial arrangement was reached because there was an urgent need.

But the government put out a new tender last October.

She said that by that time many Canadian companies had retooled and Public Services and Procurement Canada used a competitive bidding process.

In late February, nine of 71 companies that bid for the work were chosen and Stanfield's was not one of them. Zann said she doesn't yet know which companies were chosen.

"It's very disappointing and I'm worried for the workers," she said Sunday.

"I think I'm going to suggest that I meet with them and help figure out steps going forward as to how I can actually help them and what kinds of solutions we can come up with."

As recently as Feb. 22, the company posted on Facebook that production was in "full swing" and that it was proud to be making PPE for front-line workers.

Zann said Stanfield sent her a text on Friday telling her he had sent out layoff notices to 150 employees. She said he told her the previous week that he didn't think his company would be awarded a second tender.

Zann said she has been in contact with other federal departments to see if there are other opportunities for Stanfield's.

"I don't know what is in store, but I'm certainly going to be doing everything I can to try and help them continue," she said.

"Nova Scotians are hardy people and we've certainly been through a lot lately. But we will continue and we will get beyond this."

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