TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian Auto Workers union said on Tuesday it had failed to win a reprieve for Daimler AG’s Sterling truck plant in St. Thomas, Ontario, but vowed to continue fighting to save hundreds of jobs.
Local and national union officials met with Chris Patterson, chief executive of Daimler Trucks North America, in Windsor, Ontario, to discuss the future of the plant, which employs over 2,000 people when operating at full capacity.
A week ago Daimler announced plans to close the plant in March, along with a decision scrap the Sterling heavy duty truck brand due to deteriorating market conditions. It held that line in the meeting, a CAW official said.
“Nothing was agreed upon but dialogue was begun,” said Jim Stanford, an economist with the union.
The company will also close a plant in Portland, Oregon, as it focuses on its Freightliner and Western Star truck brands, and moves production to plants in Mexico and the Carolinas.
Daimler Trucks said it expects annual earnings to improve by $900 million by 2011 as a result of those actions.
While the St. Thomas operation makes Sterling trucks, the plant closing should be treated as a separate issue from the culling of the Sterling brand, said Stanford.
“For the first six years, that plant produced Freightliners, not Sterlings,” he said.
“Our hope now is to continue to work with the company and the government around a plan for long-run product allocation for that facility.”
The union said it met with St. Thomas-area politicians from the federal, provincial and municipal levels on October 17, who suggested that government funds could be made available for retooling the plant.
In September, Ottawa offered Ford Motor Co. of Canada up to C$80 million ($66 million) though its Automotive Innovation Fund and Community Development Trust Fund to help reconfigure the company’s Essex engine plant in Windsor.
In 2003, a government bailout and CAW concessions helped prevent the International truck plant in Chatham, Ontario, from being shut. That plant still employs more than 800 workers.
Reporting by John McCrank; editing by Rob Wilson