Move by Navistar ‘aggravating,' union president says

SPRINGFIELD — Navistar International, Inc. issued a Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification Monday, Aug. 2, as part of its plan to begin contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers union.

The WARN notice filed with Ohio Department of Job and Family Services states up to 370 workers at the company’s Springfield production facility may be laid off on or about Oct. 4.

Any layoffs would impact members of UAW Local 402 and 658.

The initiation date of the notice coincides roughly with the Oct. 1 expiration date of the master contract between UAW members and the company.

According to Navistar Spokesperson Roy Wiley, the company issued the notice so it will be able to continue to fill customer orders if no contract has been agreed upon by the Oct. 1 expiration date.

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Once the contract has expired, union workers can not continue to work inside the facility.

To issue the notice is normal, Wiley said, since the WARN Act requires a company to issue a notice even if layoffs are possible, but not imminent.

According to federal law, a company has to issue the notice 60 days before action is taken to offer employees the opportunity to find other employment or secure retraining.

“This was purely to be in compliance with federal law,” Wiley said.

If the Springfield layoffs occur, work will likely be diverted to production facilities in Garland, Texas, and Escobedo, Mexico, something that’s already happening, said Jason Barlow, president of UAW Local 402.

“It’s aggravating because this company has made money over the past three years, even when other truck companies are closing. It’s obviously part of a fear tactic. Workers in the plant are concerned,” Barlow said.

The company’s only impetus to issue the notice was to remain in compliance with federal law, Wiley said.

Barlow said union officials met with company representatives Monday, where they were told the company was anticipating layoffs with no end date in sight.

There are currently 557 active UAW workers in Springfield, with about 67 employed at the Truck Service Center and about 67 belonging to UAW Local 658 members, which represents clerical and technical workers. The approximately 180 UAW members that would remain after the mass layoff work in the cab assembly, stamping and E coat painting facility.

A letter from UAW Local 402 leadership to its members issued Monday states the company told union officials “that or about Oct. 1, (the company anticipates) it will cease truck assembly and certain other related operations for some period of time at the Springfield truck assembly plant.”

The letter also stated “this action is currently anticipated to be a temporary nature. At this time, however, Navistar can not reasonably predict the duration of the resulting layoff.”

Main table negotiations regarding the contract that expires Oct. 1 are slated to begin Aug. 23.

“If we’re close to an agreement, we could keep on working or it could be a situation like Chatham,” Barlow said.

Navistar’s Chatham facility has been idled for more than a year after contract negotiations between union members and the company broke down. Negotiations have never resumed; most of that plant’s production was diverted to Escobedo.

“During negotiations, the company will come in with a list of concessions they need and we’ll see if those will actually bring work to Springfield,” Barlow said. “If the company stays true to their word regarding bringing all products to all plants, then there could be some big things coming for Springfield.”

Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0371 or elroberts@coxohio.com.

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