Unions representing workers at RV manufacturer Glendale International Corp. were surprised when the Canadian RV manufactuer announced Tuesday (Jan. 19) that it had filed for voluntary bankruptcy protection, according to the Toronto Star. The Oakville, Ont.-based company said it has spent the past few months undertaking an “extensive” internal review, looking at strategies to rebuild its recreational vehicle division.

However, high gasoline prices, a rising Canadian dollar and the lingering effects of recession have taken a toll on Glendale International, forcing the company into bankruptcy, chief executive Edward Hanna said.

Hanna said there does not appear to be a significant rebound in store for the Canadian RV industry.

“The board of directors determined that a voluntary assignment in bankruptcy was in the best interests of the corporation’s stakeholders,” he said in a statement.

The company said all of the Glendale directors have resigned, but didn’t provide details on how the bankruptcy affects its employees or customers.

Calls to Glendale’s head office were not immediately returned.

About 110 hourly workers were temporarily laid off from the Glendale plant in Strathroy when it shut down in November. Colin Cherry of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represented the workers, said the laid-off employees expected to be recalled in February.

“We were going into a program to improve the workplace, getting new technology — that was in a couple of weeks’ time,” Cherry said.

“The union and the company were going into a partnership agreement, which is quite disappointing because it’s never going to materialize now.”

In Alberta, the United Steelworkers represented about 60 Glendale workers who worked at a plant in Red Deer, manufacturing Travelaire-brand RVs.

The news of Glendale’s bankruptcy came as a surprise to Nick Stewart, president of United Steelworkers Local 1-207.

“I was under the impression that Glendale was actually in a pretty good financial position,” Stewart said. “They’ve got a rather substantial cash position as well. They haven’t exactly been running on credit. It’s a bit surprising.”

However, he acknowledged Travelaire had been struggling in recent years and tried to diversify into mobile homes and other products beyond its traditional base of recreational trailers and motorhomes.

“I’m not sure how successful that’s been,” Stewart said.

The Glendale RV division had just under $9 million in sales for the first nine months of 2009 – down from about $16.6 million in the same period of 2008. Sales at the Travelaire division totalled $6 million, down from $6.7 million in the first nine months of 2008.

Glendale said in October it was debt-free and had $2.4 million in cash as of Aug. 28.