Do the right thing

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Given Navistar’s latest defeat in its attempt to delay paying pensions to workers at its former truck assembly plant in Chatham, it’s time for the company to finally get serious about paying its pension and severance obligations.

The Ontario Financial Services Tribunal last week dismissed the truck maker’s assertion that last year’s ruling by the province’s superintendent of financial services had no jurisdiction to make a ruling.

LEADWAVE Technologies from Chatham Voice on Vimeo.

In a strongly worded 40-page decision, the tribunal not only disagreed with Navistar but increased the firm’s liability and patently dismissed its position on restructuring and the ultimate closure of the plant.

It was the equivalent of an old-fashioned over-the-knee spanking of the billion-dollar, multi-national corporation. Navistar should take its punishment and move on.

The company can (and many expect it to) appeal, although with every loss it becomes more likely the firm will ultimately have to pay.

It is hoped the tribunal’s decision will also move the firm toward finally paying severances to those workers it has held financially hostage for nearly five years.

The millions coming to Chatham workers may represent a victory, but it’s hardly justice. Despite their relatively high position on the pay scale of organized labour, more than a few Navistar workers were living without a large financial net, something that also applies to plenty of professionals and business owners.

When they were denied benefits to which they were legally entitled in Ontario, savings disappeared and in more than a few instances, homes were foreclosed, marriages dissolved and families torn apart.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Heinz, which was to Leamington what Navistar was to Chatham, negotiated what even union officials admitted was a “fair” severance package six months before it closed its plant there.

Union officials in Leamington called Heinz owner Warren Buffet “a man of his word.”

If Navistar CEO Troy Clarke has aspirations of being held in any similar regard, leaving the community by fulfilling his responsibility would be a good start.

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