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International may ax Chatham plant

CHATHAM, Ont. -- Workers at the International Truck plant in Chatham need to cut more costs or their days could be...

CHATHAM, Ont. — Workers at the International Truck plant in Chatham need to cut more costs or their days could be numbered.

A notice was sent to the southern Ontario facility earlier this week, warning closure will become a reality unless another $14 million can be cut from operations.

The original plan handed down to the workers six months ago was to cut $28 million to help deal with the slow heavy truck market. To date, the plant has only been able to reach half of that goal.

“We sent out a letter, formal notification, that there is a possibility that the plant could be closed in a year if we don’t become competitive,” says Roy Wiley, manager of external communications at the Navistar International Corp. headquarters in Warrenville, Ill. “In other words we need more cost savings.”

The facility, which employed 2,200 in 1999, has been downsized to approximately 900.

“The truck industry has gone to hell in a hand-basket over a long period of time,” says Bob Chernecki, a spokesman for the Canadian Auto Workers union, during an interview with local media. “But (the employees) have reduced everything they could reduce using every option they had available to them. It’s not realistic to cut another $14 million.”

Wiley says the added cuts needed are a “work in progress.”

When asked where the future lies for the Chatham plant, Wiley says, “You’re asking me to speculate and we have a policy: We don’t speculate.”

He says the company and workers are entering into negotiations on a new labor contract (the existing contract expires in June).

“Hopefully we’ll be able to resolve the issues, because we like Chatham,” says Wiley. “They’ve been in our family for a long, long time.”

Chicago-based International is required to give at least one year’s notice of any plan to close the plant.

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