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Those struggling a year after Caterpillar shutdown are supporting each other

Just over a year ago, on Feb. 3, 2012, Caterpillar Inc. shut down its London, Ont., locomotive assembly plant leaving 460 unionized workers without jobs. Only about 52 per cent of the former workers have found jobs, but many are temporary, contract or part-time positions.

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Former Electro-Motive Diesel employee Brandy Damm was recently promoted to a coordinating position at the union’s job action centre.

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Brandy Damm shares the coordinator role with fellow former EMD employee Kelly Gordon. The positions give Ms. Damm and Ms. Kelly six months of guaranteed full-time work.

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Kelly Gordon, left, worked as a welder at EMD. She would like to find work in Western Canada, but says the cost of the certification to work in other provinces is too high for her. Brandy Damm has worked part-time sorting mail at Canada Post since the EMD shutdown, but she says the work is casual.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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A former employee, Ted Chorostecki, looks at job listings that are posted in the job action centre. Many of the laid-off EMD workers say it’s difficult to find work that matches the wages and benefits they had at EMD. A lot of the jobs posted in the action centre are temporary or part-time and are listed at a much lower wage.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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Another former employee, Oscar McCabe, looks at job listings for London that are posted in the job action centre. Only about 52 per cent of the former workers have found jobs in the year since the locomotive plant was closed.

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The job action centre offers laid-off workers a place to look for work, build skills through training and education programs, and share meals with their former colleagues.

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Ross Seeley worked as a pipefitter at Electro-Motive for 29 years when the plant was abruptly closed. He is still living off his severance package and is waiting to hear what his future will bring with the resolution of his pension. He now works part-time, cooking at a restaurant in nearby Glencoe, Ont., and wants to go back to school in the fall to become a chef.

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In the meantime, Ross Seeley is participating in a forklift training course that was facilitated by the job action centre.

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Vince Gugliotta and Sarah Smith both worked as assemblers at Electro-Motive before its shutdown last year. Mr. Gugliotta is still unemployed a year later while Ms. Smith works part-time as a cleaner.

Deborah Baic/Deborah Baic

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The pair struggled in the aftermath to provide for their young family with both parents out of work. At the time, Ms. Smith wasn't eligible for benefits because she was off on maternity leave caring for their youngest daughter when the plant was shut down.

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A year ago, both Vince and Sarah said they’d probably look into retraining in order to secure work. Ms. Smith, left, is participating in the forklift training course facilitated by the job action centre.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

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