International Truck and Engine Corp. has announced today it will close its Chatham, Ontario assembly plant early next summer, but the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union said it will seek government intervention.
CAW held a six-week strike at the Chatham plant, which produces International 9000i Series Class 8 trucks, during the summer. However, International said the plant closure was a necessary step to address competitive market conditions.
CAW president Buzz Hargrove blasted the decision, calling it "another case of Americans making decision in the best interest of Americans and to hell with Canada." Hargrove said he is asking Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Industry Minister Allan Rock to immediately intervene and to notify the OEM that they will not be able to sell trucks in Canada unless this decision to close is reversed.
Steve Keate, president of the company's truck group, said the plant would not close before June 1, 2003, and that production would shift to the company's Escobedo, Mexico assembly plant.
"This has been a very difficult decision, but this decision in no way reflects on the performance of our Chatham employees and the quality trucks they build," Keate said. "Obviously, this decision was made only after exploring every available option to achieve the competitive cost structure needed given industry demand."
"This is another callous decision made without regard or respect for long service workers, their families and their communities and it is a slap in the face to the sovereignty of Canada," Hargrove added.
The Chatham plant is currently operating on one shift with approximately 1,000 employees. In addition to active workers, there are approximately 1,200 union workers on layoff status.