“We have obligations. We have things to pay”: after 75 years, the Rayonese factory closes its doors and lays off 177 workers

After 75 years of existence, the Rayonese mattress fabric manufacturing plant in Saint-Jérôme is closing its doors and laying off its 177 workers to move part of its production to North Carolina in the United States.

“We heard the news yesterday, at 3 p.m. Everyone here has obligations. We have things to pay for. It’s a good company. I loved the people,” confides Maude Léveillé, a knitter for three years at the Rayonese factory in the MRC of La Rivière-du-Nord.

It was late Wednesday afternoon that the American parent company Culp chose to announce its decision. We also learned that part of the production would move to Stokesdale, North Carolina, closer to its headquarters in High Point.

Attached to the Laurentian landscape since 1965, “La Rayonese”, as it is called in the area, celebrated its 75th anniversary this year. The building still bears traces of its industrial past.

Photo Francis Halin

“It saddens me because it’s a place that I really loved,” adds Maude Léveillée, 24, who worked night shifts with 12-hour shifts.

More than 177 people will lose their livelihood, according to the notice received by the government.

“The collective layoff is spread over several waves of layoffs planned between the end of July 2024 and December 31, 2024,” explains Jonathan Gaudreault, spokesperson for the Ministry of Labor.

Photo Francis Halin

“It’s a shock”

Thursday noon, the workers hung by The newspaper had a heavy heart. Many had difficulty holding back their tears and needed more time to absorb the blow before being able to talk about it.

In interview at Newspaper, the factory director for 29 years, Patrick Deschênes, was emotional. “It’s a shock. Several people have 45 or even 50 years of seniority,” he confided.

“With interest rates, people are a little caught in the throat, so mattresses, we are a little dependent on new construction and renovation,” explained the number 1 of the legendary factory.

According to Patrick Deschênes, the move of some of the activities to the southeast of the United States is less a matter of costs than of sales which were less there.

“Our competitors are doing the same thing as us right now. Everyone reduces. The pie is getting smaller,” he observes. “The soul of Rayonese is the employees,” he whispers.

The mayor affected

For Marc Bourcier, mayor of Saint-Jérôme, who grew up in the Saint-Pierre district, neighboring La Rayonese, it hurt.

Maude Léveillé, knitter for almost three years at the Rayonese factory

The Journal met the mayor of Saint-Jérôme, Marc Bourcier, at a job fair in his city on Thursday.

Photo Francis Halin

“It’s sad news, but I have to say that Saint-Jérôme is the most courted bride in the Laurentians,” he said on a hopeful note.

“It’s a page of history that has just been turned. We went down the coast, we saw the Rayonese. We could see it from the highway too,” he concluded, referring to companies in the electricity sector like Lion, which give him hope for a better future.

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