Honeywell plant shuts down, leaves workers worried about future

Mario Garofalo laughed when someone joked about how he’s named after a videogame. He grew sombre when he talked about being laid off by Honeywell this year.

“February, they gave us these jackets as a gift for saying great job, and all that,” he said. “In March 2010 they announced they’re closing the plant.”

Honeywell is a large corporation with several manufacturing plants in Canada. One of them was located at 35 Dynamic Dr. in Scarborough. It was a model to clients who came from all over the world to see its remarkable results and the speed at which workers acquired them.

They let us know that it was better for them to move it to Asia or closer to their customers.

— Mario Garofalo

The plant will officially close in December. A total of 263 people have lost their jobs, with some workers close to retirement age.

External communications director Bruce Anderson said the factory’s capabilities would be moved to other Honeywell facilities.

“The plant is not moving and this was not a reflection of the performance at that facility,” he said. “We have been providing support to the affected employees throughout the almost 22-month transition.”

Garofalo has worked at the plant for 14 years. He is still searching for a job.

“They let us know that it was better for them to move it to Asia or closer to their customers,” he said.

Former employees have little to support them after being laid off. A union fight gave them two weeks of severance pay for each year they worked there. A support group has formed with the help of a local union: the Honeywell CAW (Canadian Autoworkers) Action Centre.

“It gives us a space for people to meet, keep in touch, use computers, apply for employment insurance,” he said.

Maureen Telford was a mother looking for part-time work during the holiday season when she got a job on the assembly line at the Honeywell plant. It was 1976 and the plant was located on Ellesmere Road at the time, with over 2,000 employees and a parking lot so big, it had its own gas bar. Despite their large size, everyone treated each other like family.

“We knew from when people had newborns right up to when they went to university,” Telford said.

She worked at the plant nonstop until an illness hit a few years ago, which required her to live on sick pay. She officially retired before the plant closed, and currently helps workers who are looking for a second career and re-education. She recalls the emphasis Honeywell put on working faster with your hands without thinking.

“The actual motto back then was ‘Check your brain at the door,’” she said.

She spends her days calling people about workshops, seminars, events and just to stay in touch and reinforce positivity.

“You end up laughing again,” she said.