About 500 workers at an Ontario Volvo plant found out they're losing their jobs Tuesday, as the company announced plans to shift motor grader production from Goderich, Ont. to a factory in Pennsylvania.

About 165 salaried workers and 335 hourly employees work at the plant -- one of the major employers in the southwestern Ontario town of 8,000 people. The factory exclusively builds motor graders, used for road construction and snow clearing.

The company, which also announced 1,400 job cuts in Europe on Tuesday, says it's making the move in an effort to increase profits and minimize the effect of exchange rate fluctuations within North America.

Workers learned of the impending shutdown at an early morning meeting at the local Knights of Columbus Hall.

"There were no chairs. It was standing room only," Volvo welder Chris Moffat told CP24.com. "In 15 minutes tops, they told us 'you're out of a job, this is the way it's going to be.' There were even security there all dressed in suits.

"When we walked out the doors, they handed us a pamphlet telling us how we're going to explain this to our children, saying what methods we should use."

Moffat says the news particularly stings following the union's last contract negotiations nearly four years ago, when the company demanded that new employees be paid $10 per hour less than existing workers.

"They told us we'd have to make these concessions or they'd move the plant," says Moffat. "They had a responsibility to this town and they blew it."

Calls to Volvo's office Tuesday evening were not answered.

In a news release issued Tuesday, Volvo pledged its support to help the workers seek new training, obtain counselling and find new jobs.

The only other large employer in town is the Sifto salt mine, and there won't be enough jobs there for all those being laid off by Volvo, says Moffat, 29.

"It's not so much me I am worried about, but I am worried about my dad," he says. "People like my father, that just need five or 10 more years to retire... They've been in manufacturing all their life."

Previously called Champion Road Machinery, the company was purchased by Volvo in March 1997. On June 8, 1996, Canada Post issued a stamp bearing a picture of a 1936 Champion grader.

The organization's first incarnation was founded in Pennsylvania. Its operations are set to return to that state by the end of 2010.