CAW Urges Federal Government Action to Save Navistar

May 12, 2009, 1:33 PM EST

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The CAW is urging the federal Conservative government to take immediate steps to ensure the future of the Navistar truck plant in Chatham, Ontario.

The CAW and Navistar opened negotiations the first week of May with CAW negotiators 'absolutely astounded' by a company proposal that would reduce the Chatham plant to a shell of a facility.

"Despite the fact that our labour costs are cheaper than their U.S. operations, it appears that Navistar has no future commitment to Chatham," said Bob Chernecki, assistant to the CAW president. "The company is telling us in essence, if they are serious about this proposal, they would 'gut' the plant and reduce it to an active workforce of less than 100 people with no strategy for growth," Chernecki states in a letter to Chatham-Kent-Essex MP David VanKesteren.

The company proposal would also eliminate the 35 truck-a-day guarantee in the current collective agreement. CAW members would need more than 30 years seniority to remain employed if the company changes go through, devastating the members, their families and the community of Chatham.

VanKesteren was reminded that the federal government has put in $30 million to maintain the Navistar jobs into the future. Further, he was told that due to changes in their collective agreement the workers took $40 million per year out of the cost of Navistar operating in Chatham.

Without action such as a tariff on Navistar it is clear the work will be sent to Mexico or the United States. With more than 800 members on layoff and an active workforce of less than 400, immediate action is needed, VanKesteren was told.

"The company has tabled a proposal that would decimate the current operation in Chatham," Cathy Wiebenga, chairperson of Local 127 and Sonny Galea, chairperson of Local 35 said in a joint statement.

 "After numerous meetings with the company, it is clear to the union that we have been asked to compete for jobs at Mexican wage rates. The company in turn offers nothing to the Chatham workers in the way of job security.  Under the current proposal the number of jobs offered to CAW Local 127 and CAW Local 35 are approximately 10% of the current memberships.  "The New World Order", the company's rendition of the Chatham Assembly Plant's future, puts into question ratification of a collective agreement. We will continue to move forward in attempting to obtain a viable collective agreement with Navistar," they said.

A bargaining update to CAW Local 127 and 35 members highlights the financial strength of Navistar's truck division:

- for 4.75 years since the last agreement, Navistar has made over $2.1 billion in the truck division and over $710 million in net income for share holders;

- the truck division accounted for 71 per cent of the corporation's total gross profit from 2004 to the third quarter of 2008;

- market share is at 24 per cent, up 12 per cent since 2002 due largely to the success of the Prostar and Lonestar products made in Chatham.


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