CAW Officials Urge Daimler to Keep St. Thomas Truck Plant Open

October 21, 2008, 2:27 PM EST

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After a meeting with Daimler executives today over the future of the Sterling Truck plant in St.Thomas, Ontario, CAW President Ken Lewenza is urging the company to keep the plant open and ready to produce trucks when the economy recovers.

Despite the company's announcement that it plans to cancel the Sterling brand of trucks, Lewenza said the workers remain committed to building medium and heavy duty trucks whatever the brand.

Today's meeting with senior executives from Daimler Trucks North America - Chris Patterson, CEO, and Dave Carson - and top leadership from the CAW, was a tough exchange of views, Lewenza said.

While the company executives outlined their rationale for cancelling the Sterling brand, and closing the St. Thomas plant, Lewenza stressed these are two entirely separate issues.

"Our members in St. Thomas, are not tied to producing any particular name brand," said Lewenza. "They build high-quality medium and heavy duty trucks. They built Freightliners for six years and more recently built Sterlings. Clearly, they are skilled enough to build any brand in the future."

Lewenza expressed deep frustration at developments regarding Saltillo, Mexico.

He said the company reconfirmed with the CAW a previous understanding that this plant was intended originally as an overflow facility.  Yet now it is tooled up to produce the Cascadia and has a future, whereas the St. Thomas plant, which was the lead plant, is now facing closure.

This "leapfrogging" of our long-standing facility by a brand new plant in Mexico is completely unacceptable, Lewenza said.

Lewenza said that Daimler will continue building trucks for the North American market and has a responsibility to preserve a Canadian manufacturing presence as part of its overall continental operations.

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