In August of 1972 Blue Bell Canada made plans public to expand their Carleton Place operations. Arrangements were made to lease a major portion of the plant at 150 Mill Street that was currently occupied by the Digital Company in Carleton Place. The company had been in operation since 1967 in Carleton Place and there was a growing demand for Wrangler Jeans. Blue Bell Canada was thrilled that the new facility would make it possible to employ in excess of 100 additional people.
In June of 1981, Mary Montreuil knew something was wrong when her employer Blue Bell of Canada reduced everyone’s hours from 40 to 32 six months previous. But, she wasn’t expecting to be out of a job. Suddenly, the company shut down its auxiliary sewing unit without warning throwing 70 people out of work. They knew business was bad because of the slowdown, but no one said anything about closing the plant in its entirety. Montreuil, along with others, mentioned a warning might have been nice. The company’s manufacturing division manager Peter Morel said employees were purposely not told about the shutdown.
“Attitude is the single most important thing here. We didn’t give notice because people would no longer care about the work they were doing.”
Employees were given eight weeks pay for a 40-hour work week instead of the notice. Morel blamed the closure because of losing sales battles with imported designer jeans and overhead costs. Plant manager Keith McAlpine said he was calling to see if other businesses were available to employ his now laid-off staff elsewhere in town. He expected most of the plants employees to have a job within the next eight weeks. Carleton Place Mayor Melba Barker called McApline to see if she could help, but the decision had been made and relocation was now going to the Renfrew plant. Only four mechanics from Carleton Place would be rehired in Renfrew.
Carleton Place Manufacturing Historical Fact:
A one hour strike for a shorter working day by about fifty men at Peter McLaren’s sawmill was unsuccessful. Working hours continued at thirteen hours a day, from 6 a.m to 7 p.m., and twelve hours on Saturdays.