Could the former St. Thomas psychiatric hospital go from movie set to front-line player in the COVID-19 pandemic?

city_scope_logo-cmykLet’s pray it never reaches this stage – and to date, there is no indication St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital is about to be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients – however, the president of OPSEU is urging the province “to look for creative ways to combat the spread of the coronavirus.”
Warren ‘Smokey’ Thomas is urging the Doug Ford government to consider opening portions of previously shuttered regional mental health centres including the facility south of St. Thomas and the Rideau Regional Centre in Smiths Falls to ease a potential capacity crisis in the healthcare system.
In a media release issued last month, Thomas noted, “They can be used for currently hospitalized alternative care patients or as dedicated COVID-19 centres to relieve pressure on our hospitals. Let’s be proactive. Now is the time for action.”

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End of the line for Navistar’s Chatham plant

The end has finally come.

Nearly a decade after it was first announced Chatham’s Navistar plant would close, it has become a reality.

The final death knell came Tuesday — more than two years after the Richmond Street truck assembly facility has sat idled — when Navistar International Corporation issued a news release announcing its plans to close the plant.

The company blamed the inability to reach a collective bargaining agreement with the Canadian Auto Workers union as the reason operations were halted since June of 2009.

However, the union has continually stated it couldn’t get the company to the bargaining table.

CAW Local 127 president Aaron Neaves said, “it’s hard to negotiate, quite frankly, with yourself.”

Read the full story here

It’s another body shot to southwestern Ontario, the province’s manufacturing engine that has been decimated over the past couple of years with the loss of several thousand jobs alone in St. Thomas/ Elgin – which is bracing for the closure of Ford Canada’s St. Thomas Assembly Plant this fall.

The announced closure of Navistar International Truck’s Chatham facility today is a devastating blow to the workers, their families and the entire community, said CAW President Ken Lewenza.

“Despite our relentless efforts since 2009 to reopen the idled facility and get our members back to work, Navistar has remained rigid and is now moving ahead with plans to shutter the plant,” Lewenza said, following the company’s formal announcement.
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Ottawa agrees with truck study request

The full article by Bob Boughner of the Chatham Daily News can be found here

Dave Van Kesteren’s request for a comprehensive study of Canada’s medium and heavy-duty truck manufacturing sector has been granted by Ottawa.

Industry Ministry Tony Clement announced the study Tuesday and called for a report to be delivered to government by spring.

Van Kesteren, MP for Chatham-Kent Essex, is “thrilled” his federal counterparts have acted on the recommendation he made earlier this year.
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Union gets foot in door with Navistar officials

There is a glimmer of hope for the Navistar International Truck and Engine plant in Chatham.

Aaron Neaves, president of CAW Local 127, said the union found out late Monday afternoon the company has finally responded to its request to meet soon for “exploratory discussions.

“That’s all we can tell you right now,” he told reporters outside Chatham-Kent council chambers after hearing a brief report on what economic development has done over the last month to help with the situation.

He added the membership needs to be informed of the date before it’s made public.

Neaves said he is “very cautiously optimistic,” but stressed they’re only exploratory discussions.

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Post script …

Talks regarding the future of Navistar’s Richmond Street truck plant are scheduled for Aug. 19.

“These discussions are in an effort to feel the climate of the company’s intentions for our future,” said Cathy Wiebenga and Sonny Galea, in a joint media release Tuesday.

Wiebenga is plant chairwoman for the CAW Local 127 Navistar unit and Galea represents CAW Local 35 Navistar unit.

The talks are aimed at moving the company back to discussions with locals 127 and 35, the bargaining committees and the national union.

“The committee is committed to all options that exist for both locals,” said the union representatives.

They said an update for the membership will be provided following the meeting.

Company spokesman Roy Wiley has said repeatedly the company is willing to talk provided the talks are productive.

Does Navistar expect to take work out of Chatham and have Canadians continue to purchase its trucks?

Talk about a Mexican stand-off — The CAW wants the Navistar plant in Chatham back up and running, with its members back on the assembly line in numbers; the municipality wants the plant operational, even if it’s not pumping out trucks; and the company wants to run a pared-down operation with one-20th of the workforce that once worked there.

Through it all, 5,000 heavy-duty trucks recently ordered by J.B. Hunt Transportation Services Inc. will likely be built in Mexico because the Chatham facility is idled.

Talk about a mess.

About 150 people marched through Chatham Monday and into council chambers to seek help from council. They want to see pressure on the provincial and federal governments to get involved to help entice Navistar get the plant running again, and give people their jobs back.

Council will let the senior governments, as well as the company and the union, know how important it is for Chatham-Kent to have the truck plant operational once more.
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After $62 million and one year, Chatham truck plant is still idle

The Navistar assembly plant in Chatham, which received about $62 million in taxpayers’ money to stay open, has hit the one-year mark without making a heavy truck.

The plant reached the dubious anniversary for non-production today as more workers drift away and their union renews efforts for a reopening.

“It’s sombre,” said Aaron Neaves, president of Canadian Auto Workers Local 127, about the mood of employees. “But it’s still somewhat cautiously optimistic.”

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Bottom line is Navistar employees want to go back to work

Navistar workers in Chatham are only asking for decency, respect and a job. And, they’re at a point in their battle where they need the power of the government to step up to the plate.

“For the last 10 years, International Truck was the top employer in Chatham-Kent,” said CAW president Ken Lewenza. “And for the last 10 years, those employees gave back to their community.”

Now, those workers need that same community to support them, he said.

“This is not a fight for CAW. This is a fight for our jobs. This is a fight for the future,” he said.

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Union blames feds and province for Navistar plant closure

The federal and provincial governments are to blame for the closure of a local truck assembly plant by not insisting on job guarantees when they turned over millions to Navistar, says Bob Chernecki.

The top CAW official said Tuesday the two levels of government gave Chicago-based Navistar more than $63 million to keep the doors open at Chatham-Kent’s major employer but failed to ensure job guarantees as part of the deal.

Chernecki, in a telephone interview, said CAW employees at the facility also provided the company with more than $40 million in concessions.

“The company has turned around and slapped all of us in the face — CAW members, the community and the governments — by tabling a new deal that would provide less than 100 jobs in the plant,” he said.

Chernecki said the CAW and the company are at a “clear impasse.”
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So, where’s the warm and fuzzy Navistar feeling in Chatham?

Posted by Ian:

A feel good story from Navistar in the heart of Dixie. So why are Chatham employees pounding the pavement for months on end with no future in sight? A whole different approach in Alabama …

Like many companies in these tough times, Navistar Diesel of Alabama, faced severe layoffs this January, but unlike other companies, it devised a way to keep employees on the payroll. Instead of laying off workers, plant manager Chuck Sibley kept them on, and loaned them out to local charities — saving the jobs of 50 people, who would have been laid off.

“We knew last July we were going to have a problem, that we’re going to have too many people and we weren’t going to have work for them in January,” Sibley told ABC News. “I woke up at 3 a.m. in the morning, trying to figure out what I am going to do with everybody, and it just popped into my head that I could get them to do community work because we knew this was going to be a temporary thing.” He approached the president of the engine group, and the ball began rolling.

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