The more than 100 years of history that linked Boulangerie Gadoua with the people of Napierville wasn’t enough to save the factory at Monterrigy, the cradle of Quebec’s company.
Last week, Toronto-based Wonderbrands, a subsidiary of giant FGF Brands, announced the permanent closure of its slice-of-bread factory, which has employed generations of workers since its founding in 1911.
“We didn’t expect it at all,” says Hugo Rasset, who met on Monday in front of the factory, toasting a cigarette. We found out about it at 7 a.m. on the way home. And again the night before, they were incorporating new employees… for me. Like everyone here, it was a complete surprise.”
Like about 150 workers in the bread factory, the professional oven operator that day knew that he would lose his job in three months… This is at the same time as his wife, who is also a Gadoua employee. A severe blow for the couple.
“They gave us 12 weeks’ notice that we would have to continue working. But no compensation was given. After 25 years with the same employer, I can tell you it’s not easy.”
area in shock
The shock seemed shared by all residents of the small commune of 7,000 residents during our visit. “The Gadoua family is still in Napierville. It touches me deeply. We all have someone who works in Gadoua. We’ve been associated with the company, it’s about us,” MRC Jardins-de-Napierville prefect Yves Boyer told us Monday, still under the influence of emotion.
We had the same amazement at Napierville City Hall, located in the same building where Gadoua’s first bakery was born. Gathered at the site, Mayor Chantal Pelletier did not have the words to express her displeasure.
“The current owners have never called us for help or to tell us about any problems. If we had known, we might have been able to do something,” she says, worried about the future fate of former employees at the plant. “If you find yourself without a job, in the current context of a potential recession, nobody wants that.”
Wonderbrands declined to be interviewed, relying on an emailed statement confirming the termination of operations at the plant in mid-April.
“We have made great efforts over the past few years to invest and improve the factory’s operations. However, despite these efforts, the factory is facing many insurmountable difficulties (…) ”, the company affirms, and is also committed to maintaining its production activities in Longueuil and Gatineau.
Yet none of the employees who were about to lose their jobs in Napierville were guaranteed a job at any of those other factories, asserts 44-year-old Marie-Claude Provost, a shop hostess and bottling operator.
“It affects everyone. But she says it’s worse for employees with 30 to 40 years of experience. For them, it’s more emotional. Many cried, and I understand them.”
In his view, the lack of effort to modernize the plant in recent decades would explain this closure. “When the factory is old and the investments are not up to par, we end up with unmatched productivity. I feel that is what happened here.”
Before the plant closes its doors for good, elected officials from the region are hoping to convene an emergency meeting with Quebec to explore various possibilities for a revival. With a little luck, they think, perhaps another company could take advantage of the upcoming availability of 150 workers?
Example in short
Place of incorporation: Naperville, Montereygue
factory area: 6600 square meters
Number of current employees: From 100 to 150 employees
Some key dates
1911 Company founding by Wilfrid Gadoua
2004 The Gadoua family sells the company to Weston
2021 Weston sells the business to FGF Brands, Wonderbrands’ parent company
2023 On the morning of January 11th, Wonderbrands management announced they were closing their doors to employees. The factory will definitely stop production in April.
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