The new year started out on a sombre note for 545 Provigo employees after their union confirmed reports that parent company Loblaws is shutting down its Laval distribution centre.

The sprawling warehouse in the industrial park south of Highway 440 that has hummed with activity around the clock for years, will close within two years as the dry goods operations serving Quebec and eastern Canada is moved to a subcontracted Cornwall facility. Also reported to be closing is Loblaws’ Ottawa centre, eliminating an additional 250 jobs.

For its part, Loblaws stated that the Francis Hughes site could not be renovated or upgraded, and had reached the end of its useful life, the company having little options but to close both sites.

The two-year phase-out to consolidate the two centres is giving the United Food and Commercial Workers union (TUAC) hope that they can help their members transition into quality jobs, with the company pledging its cooperation to help employees out, including finding some of them slots in other areas of their operations. The Cornwall plant which will be modernized and automated, will also serve Loblaws’ Pharmaprix and Shoppers Drug Mart banners in Quebec and Ontario.

The company’s fresh and frozen products will continue to be stocked and distributed by Loblaws’ Boucherville factory. Unlike Sobeys which set up in Terrebonne, TUAC lamented that Loblaws went outside the province to modernize its operation.

The employees learned Tuesday morning about the closing with some telling media that they were certain the decision was made long before the holidays despite the announcement delayed until the new year. “Nobody wanted to look like a Grinch during the Christmas season” one employee told French radio. “At least we have two years for some of us to pay off our holiday bills.”

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