Many companies that close plants follow contractual obligations with employees and nothing more. Other companies offer outplacement services for workers, and do their best to lessen their suffering.
And then there's Michelin's approach.
The tire maker's decision to close the old B.F. Goodrich plant in Kitchener, Ontario, is an awful development for the city, let alone the 1,100 employees at the site. Kitchener is a blue-collar community that has had its share of factory closings in recent years. Indeed, when Michelin acquired Uniroyal Goodrich, it inherited BFG and Uniroyal plants in the city, and then axed the Uniroyal facility.
Michelin has embarked on a program to build businesses and create jobs in the region, which has a population of about 500,000. In a six-year project, low-interest loans will be offered to qualified entrepreneurs and start-up companies, generally with 250 or fewer workers. A local bank will provide the loans, and Michelin will be the guarantor.
The initiative will focus-although not exclusively-on manufacturing jobs, since that's Michelin's expertise.
For the community, it sounds like a decent idea, not as good as keeping secure jobs, but better than being left out in the cold. To the workers losing their jobs, maybe not so good.
Michelin and the United Steelworkers local in Kitchener have struggled on-and-off for years over contract issues. When the company decided it had too much capacity, the Kitchener facility lost the numbers game.
By helping the community, as it has done in Europe in similar situations, Michelin is getting lots of positive publicity. It shows the company cares, and sends a positive message to the workers at its Nova Scotia plants, where numerous union organizing efforts have been rejected.
To the USW, it's a load of bunk, a cruel joke on its members. ``What are they going to do-bring in the tubby Michelin man to hand out goody bags to people who, at the age of 55, are being encouraged to go out and start a business?'' said one local USW official in a press release.
Altruism or just public relations-it's all in one's perspective. Whatever Michelin's motive, the end result is better than just waving goodbye as it leaves town.