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Navistar could lay off all remaining Chatham workers

CHATHAM, Ont. -- The last 350 or so workers at the Navistar International truck plant in Chatham, Ont. received layoff notices recently, signifying a possibility that the facility could be idled later this summer.

Interestingly, the notices were sent to the remaining 280 CAW plant workers not yet laid off as well as about 65 office employees, Canadian Press reports.

The truckmaker is required by Ontario law to issue the notices three months in advance even if it is only considering the layoffs as an option.

The LoneStar is a head-turning truck,
but like most other brands, there aren't a
lot of them coming off the assembly line these days

With the current contract with the CAW scheduled to expire on June 30, the company is simply being "precautionary and procedural," Navistar spokesman Roy Wiley told todaystrucking.com earlier today.

Even though the company did follow through with layoffs the last two times it issued advance notices, reading anything else into this particular move would be "presumptuous," said Wiley.

Asked whether closing the plant is an option should the company and the CAW fail to reach a new agreement next month, Wiley wouldn't hypothesize. "You know my position on 'ifs.' I don't speculate."

Navistar has already had two rounds of layoffs going back to last fall, involving about 700 CAW workers.

Last year, when rival truckmaker Daimler Trucks announced it was eliminating its Sterling brand and its related St. Thomas, Ont. facility because of the severe economic downturn, Navistar officials indicated they were optimistic that the Chatham plant could weather the storm.

While at a customer appreciation event in Toronto last month, International senior VP of North American Sales Jim Hebe acknowledged that the CAW would likely need to agree to concessions in order to keep the Chatham plant competitive long-term.

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