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End of an era: Final manufacturing shift at General Electric Peterborough

Final manufacturing shift at GE Peterborough
After 126 years, General Electric shuts down manufacturing at its Peterborough plant.

It has been a staple in Peterborough for 126 years, and it’s the reason why Peterborough is known as the “Electric City.” But on Friday, General Electric (GE) marked its final day of manufacturing in Peterborough.

“GE has been a fun place to work. I had a good time,” said Barry Williams, 61, a welder-fitter at GE for 17 years.   “It’s too bad, but it’s been great.”

“I have to retire now. I’ll do something else. I have to keep moving.”

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READ MORE: General Electric shutting down Peterborough plant in 2018

GE announced it would cease operation in Peterborough back in August 2017. At that point, the closure was to affect 358 workers.

The company cited global market conditions, which saw a decline in demand for large motors, as the reason for the shutdown. The plant saw its volume drop by 60 per cent over the last four years.

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GE has slowly phased in its plant closure by ending manufacturing lines throughout the year.

“Those were skilled labourers who were there. It does present other opportunities to work with that workforce to bring in other companies,” said Dave Smith, Peterborough-Kawartha MPP.  “We are working on it. We are trying to find something to go in at the GE location, but unfortunately we don’t have something today that those employees can go to on Monday morning.”

“Peterborough built General Electric. We are always going to be the Electric City. Let’s hope the government does the right thing for workers waiting on claims and cleans up the red tape, so that survivors can access the support they deserve,” said Sean Conway, former NDP candidate for Peterborough-Kawartha.

READ MORE: GM’s Oshawa closure raises questions on Canada’s future in green auto sector: experts

The exact number of workers still at the plant as of Dec. 21 wasn’t provided.

“It is still the business’ plans to cease manufacturing and service activity on December 21. It’s important to remember that there will be 50 people remaining in GE Peterborough, in engineering and sales ops roles continuing to service our customers,” said Karissa Boley, a spokesperson for GE Canada, in an email to Global Peterborough.

Global News made numerous calls and emails to Unifor — the union representing GE workers — but the calls were not returned.

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GE began operating in Peterborough in 1892.