Navistar calling back laid off workers in Springfield

More than 300 of those workers were placed on indefinite lay off status starting last year

Navistar has been calling back laid off workers at its Springfield plant to fill open positions.

At least 124 call back letters have been sent to workers who were cut between September and January in a series of layoffs as the company reduced production and tweaked its operations in Springfield.

Information pertaining to the number of call back letters sent from Navistar was shared to the News-Sun by local union president Chris Blizard. He said that small groups of those laid off workers have been routinely brought back since June.

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Blizard represents UAW Local 402 and its members consists of assembly production workers as well as those in skilled trades at Navistar’s Springfield plant.

More than 300 of those workers were placed on indefinite lay off status starting last year as the company scaled back truck production in Springfield to align with customer demand.

Between September and January, the number of trucks built on the Springfield plant’s main line went from 117 per day to 70 per day.

In January, Lyndi McMillan, a spokesperson for Navistar, told the News-Sun that the company had to adjust the number of trucks built at its Springfield plant in order to keep up with current demand for its products. McMillan said those types of decisions are common given the cyclical nature of the trucking industry.

Navistar builds medium-duty trucks on its main line in Springfield and cutaway vans for General Motors on its other line at the plant.

Workers laid off due to a reduction in trucks being built on the main line have been called back as the company is looking to fill open positions. Those vacancies can stem from retirements or from workers seeking employment elsewhere, Blizard said.

He noted that the recent wave of call backs are unique as laid off workers are usually asked to return when plant production is increased, which is currently not the case.

Navistar spokesperson Bre Whalen said in an email to the News-Sun on Thursday that the company has “sent call back letters to replace our attrition. There has been no change in line rate.”

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Blizard expects that more of his members will be called back in the coming weeks but said it is unclear on how many.

He added that he does not know the exact number of workers who have reported back to Navistar since the call backs began in June. Not all of those who were contacted have returned to working at the plant.

The recent series of call backs began after production resumed on the plant’s main line in May and on the other line in June.

Production temporarily stopped on both of the production lines at the plant in March due to disruptions in the supply chain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Blizard said workers temporarily laid off due to the temporary stoppage in production have since returned to the plant and are not the ones that are being currently called back.

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