CHATHAM, Ont. — The International Truck plant here has been idle since workers walked off the job on Saturday leaving the plant’s future very much in doubt.
About 600 workers have ignored management warnings that the Chicago-based manufacturer may close the facility unless it achieves major cost savings. The company has already moved the 40 heavy-duty tractors previously built by Canadian workers every day on one shift to its plant in Escobedo, Mexico.
The Canadian Auto Workers are outraged the situation has come to this with one union official explaining International is merely trying to cash in on the temporary weak market to force wage concessions.
Assistant to CAW president Buzz Hargrove, Bob Chernecki is quick to point out the plant has only faced two bad years over the course of the last decade. “They were in 1993 and 2001, and the company now wants us to sacrifice wages while all the executives are taking home big pay packages. Well, we’re not going down that road.”
He adds the company is demanding hourly wage rollbacks of $6 from production employeeswho typically earn about $25 an hour.
International told the union in April it would likely close the plant if costs weren’t slashed operation-wide. The company says it needs $28 million in annual cost savings to make the plant competitive, but thus far only $14 million in savings have been realized.
At the peak of the truck boom in 1999, the plant employed 2,200 workers and utilized two shifts to meet market demands.
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