Navistar celebration carries pension message


After eight years of struggle and repeated court challenges, retirees from the Chatham Navistar plant marked their ultimate victories for pensions and severances with a family barbeque this afternoon.

“This is a celebration, but it’s also a message that if you mess with pensions, you are in for a fight,” said Unifor National President Jerry Dias, who came to Chatham for the event.

Unifor Locals 35 and 127, supported by the national union, carried on an eight-year fight for severance and pension entitlements for 700 workers at the Navistar truck plant in Chatham, which stopped production in 2009. The company announced a permanent closure in 2011.

“Navistar represents the worst of NAFTA,” said Dias, who is acting as a stakeholder advisor at the talks for a renewed North American Free Trade Agreement. “Navistar moved these jobs to Mexico with no penalty, no moral compass.”

The company refused to pay its workers the severance as required under Ontario law. An arbitrated decision earlier this year awarded all entitled workers their outstanding payments under the Employment Standards Act.

An earlier decision by the Divisional Court of Ontario ruled Navistar workers aged 55 or older and with at least 10 years of service were entitled to a special early retirement benefit. As well, those with at least 55 points of combined age and service could "grow into" a special early retirement benefit. The court also ruled that all laid off or disabled workers should get a supplementary 0.9 year of credited service.

Attendees at the barbeque enjoyed hotdogs and hamburgers, cold drinks, music and, for the children, face-painting and balloons. A moment of silence was held for those retirees who did not survive to see the victories on severance and pensions.

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