A Navistar International employee gets ready to flip a truck chassie on the assembly line. JEFF GUERINI/STAFF September 21 2018
Photo: Jeff Guerini
Photo: Jeff Guerini

Navistar declines to sign UAW contract, despite vote

A six-year contract ratified by the United Auto Workers is now the subject of an unusual dispute, after Navistar told the News-Sun Wednesday that the company is not willing to sign the agreement because workers in Springfield have not approved a separate, local agreement with the truck maker.

The News-Sun reported earlier this week that members of the United Auto Workers approved an agreement with the company that provides labor peace for both sides for the next six years. Brian Rothenberg, a spokesman for the national UAW in Detroit, said the union believes that the UAW’s national deal with the company is binding, but declined to discuss the issue further.

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“The master agreement for all seven locations at Navistar was passed by 83 percent of our members and we stand by that,” Rothenberg said.

Navistar and the UAW reached a tentative six-year collective bargaining agreement on Dec. 10. The tentative agreement included resolution of all national and local issues, said Lyndi McMillan, a spokeswoman for Navistar. But she said it stalled when workers in Springfield rejected their local agreement that had been proposed.

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In the meantime, she said the terms of the existing agreement, which expired in October, will be extended.

“In the ratification vote on December 16, 2018, a majority of voting UAW members approved the national elements of the deal, but the Springfield, Ohio local contract was rejected,” McMillan said. “Navistar is not implementing any of the agreement until all aspects of the agreement are approved. All terms of the current collective bargaining agreement are temporarily extended while negotiations continue. Navistar continues to be committed to working with the UAW on solutions, and to reaching an agreement that helps all employees work as a team to competitively build our vehicles, run our plants and win in the market.”

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Union officials previously told the News-Sun the local contracts are separate and are typically negotiated between the company and bargaining units at the local facilities.

Chris Blizard, president of the UAW Local 402, which represents the majority of workers in the Springfield plant, declined to provide further comment Wednesday until more details are available.

The company told the News-Sun that all other union entities involved in the deal have approved local agreements except Springfield, which remains the lone holdout. The local agreements typically focus on issues such as work rules at each local facility, staffing on the assembly line and similar topics.

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The dispute makes several issues unclear, including what next steps each side will take. Along with Springfield, the agreement covers Navistar Local 6 and 2293 in Melrose Park, Ill.; Local 472 in Atlanta; Local 119 in Dallas and Local 1872 in York, Pa.

UAW officials previously told the News-Sun the highlights of the national deal include the elimination of all tiered waged, pension plan improvements and profit sharing for workers. The deal also includes language to keep the contract intact in case the company is sold or merged.

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