Clark County automotive businesses slowly recuperating after GM strike

Businesses in Clark County that rely on parts from General Motors are slowly recuperating following the end of a six-week strike called against the automotive company.

Workers returned to GM facilities across the country this week after members of the United Auto Workers union voted to approve a new deal with GM.

The strike affected the distribution of vehicle parts to Clark County dealerships that sell GM brands, automotive shops that work on those vehicles and companies such as Navistar that make GM trucks and vans in Springfield.

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However, production at Navistar’s Springfield plant is scheduled to resume Monday, said Chris Blizard, the president of UAW Local 402. His union represents assembly workers and those in skilled trades that work at the plant.

Workers at several GM facilities that supply those parts participated in the strike called amid contract negotiations between their union and the company. For Navistar it meant shutting down production last month at its local assembly plant after parts needed to build truck cabs become scarce.

The move to stop production at the plant caused about 1,400 Navistar assembly workers in Springfield to be temporarily out of work. Now, those workers are expected to return to the facility on Monday.

The company resumed production on its main line on Oct. 7 to focus on its international medium-duty commercial trucks but only operated for a week before shutting down again.

Blizard estimated that 300 workers from Navistar’s paint department and cab line will be called back this week to prepare the assembly lines for production. He said representatives of Navistar expect the Springfield plant to receive parts for trucks and vans throughout this week.

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Navistar builds medium-duty commercial trucks, including those for GM, on its main line there and GM cutaway vans on its line two. A facility in Missouri that makes cabs for those vans participated in the strike, Blizard said.

“It will be great to have all our people back working full time again,” Blizard said.

However, representatives of Navistar’s Truck Specialty Center in Springfield announced last week that about 40 people will be temporarily out of work this week. Those workers modify Navistar trucks for customers.

With trucks about to be built again at the assembly plant, it is unclear how soon those workers will return. Representatives of the specialty center previously estimated that those workers would be out for two to three weeks.

Blizard said those workers could return sooner depending on how many trucks will be ready for them once the assembly lines resume production.

Area dealerships and automotive shops have also started to receive needed parts from GM suppliers.

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Scott Hennigan, who co-owns Maine’s Collision Repair & Body Shop in Springfield, said though some parts have trickled in this week, it could take up to two weeks before parts become readily available.

Hennigan said his shop receives parts for GM vehicles from the Dayton-based dealership Reichard Buick GMC. During the strike, the shortage in parts left his employees unable to repair vehicles that required GM parts.

Though the shop was able to complete some of those repairs this week, he estimates that there are still four to five vehicles at the shop that cannot be driven until more parts come in.

He added that there are also 10 to 15 more vehicles that are currently drivable, but cannot be repaired due to the lack of certain parts.

“We did not lose that work. We just could not get to it until we got the parts. That work did not go away, instead it was delayed,” Hennigan said.

Karen Thokey, the parts director for Jeff Wyler Springfield Chevrolet, said they received a large shipment of specialty and stock parts this week. During the strike, she said common stock parts were becoming hard to find and shipments were unpredictable.

“Things are starting to go back to normal,” she said, noting that shipments are now more frequent and depleted inventory stocks are slowing being built back up again.

Facts and Figures

1,400: Number of local Navistar production workers temporarily laid off during GM strike

46K: UAW members that participated in the strike

$1.75 billion: GM profits lost since strike as of Oct. 23

The Springfield News-Sun has closely covered the impact of the GM strike on Clark and Champaign counties, as it had created a shortage in parts for GM vehicles and other brands. Past coverage includes a dip in production for Navistar’s Springfield plant that builds vehicles for GM on both of its production lines.

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