Navistar, union motor along at local plant

Report: Volkswagen’s trucks division to announce partnership with Navistar

A local union representing more than 1,500 area residents is seeing growth just a few years after local officials feared Navistar’s Springfield facility might close.

Instead, union leaders and company officials worked together and recently secured two major deals with GM expected to bring about 600 jobs to Springfield. Navistar has seen signs of success in Clark County after the company has faced struggles in recent years due to a failed engine technology. As recently as 2010, local officials have said the Springfield facility had as few as 300 workers.

But the company has since changed its top management, cut hundreds of jobs at its corporate offices and sold off parts of its business. The Springfield facility has benefited, and had closer to 1,500 workers even before the company announced two separate joint agreements with GM. In part that’s because of the relationship union officials have forged with the company’s top management, said Jason Barlow, president of the UAW Local 402, which represents most of the facility’s workers.

“At the end of the day, we have to keep our membership building quality products for our customers or we won’t have jobs,” Barlow said.

Last year, the truckmaker announced a deal with GM to build medium-duty trucks in Springfield with a pledge to add as many as 300 jobs over three years. This summer, the company reached a second deal with GM to add an additional 300 jobs in which workers will build a cutaway model of GM’s G Van beginning early next year.

The company has already begun to ramp up hiring, and will reopen a manufacturing line in Springfield that had been closed since about 2001 to build the vans. The company is now hiring between 20 and 25 people per week in preparation for new production, Barlow said. That means a boost for the union’s membership as well, many of whom joined the UAW since 2011.

“We feel this is a much-needed boost and reassurance, and Navistar said they want to make this a flagship facility,” Barlow said of the Springfield plant.

Another change could be on the horizon. Rueters reported Monday that Volkswagen will take a roughly 20 percent stake in Navistar International Corp for around $16 per share as part of a partnership deal.

Reuters reported that Volkswagen’s trucks division is close to announcing a partnership with Navistar, in the latest example of a deal driven by emissions regulations. Navistar officials could not be reached for additional comments on Monday.

In June, Navistar announced it turned a small profit for the first time since the third quarter of 2012. Analsyts said the achievement was significant but should be kept in perspective because the company also lowered its estimate for future earnings.

Navistar is expected to release its third quarter earnings report later this week.

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