A union official is reacting with anger to the latest request by Navistar International in seeking more time to fulfill a provincial order to wind up its pension plan with unionized workers at its former Chatham plant.
“The nicest thing I can say about this is that it doesn’t make any sense,” said Bob Chernecki, a retired Canadian Auto Workers executive who is still active on the file. “If this was day one it might but this is year four or five.”
In a letter to the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, (FSCO) the company says it needs six months to complete the requirements of the order and further time (until the end of September) to complete the regular filing.
In December, the Ontario Court of Appeals rejected Navistar’s request that be allowed to appeal earlier court decisions, effectively placing a 60 day deadline on the truck maker to deliver a partial wind up plan.
The letter states fulfilling the order “will require obtaining and reviewing a large amount of records and data to ensure compliance.”
“I hope FSCO tells them to have a good day and then comply with the order,” he said. “They and their legal representatives have plenty of resources at hand. They just need to get to work.”
The union’s formal response notes that since the production ceased in 2009 and the Chatham plant closed in 2011, “the company or its agents have had not just multiple months but at least three years to assemble the relevant data.”
It further states “since the company knew a report would have to be prepared and knew the basic parameters of the report, there is absolutely no reason in our submission for an extension as requested by the company”.
The letter asks that the FSCO “please consider the interests of the plan members. Most endure the challenges faced by so many of our fellow Ontarians who have seen their employment terminated too early and their income drastically cut by actions entirely outside their control or contemplation.”
Even after the order is fulfilled, Chernecki said it will take months for workers to see any money.
“There is no regard whatsoever for the people who worked and made this corporation millions,” he said. “It’s beyond cruel.”
He said there is more than $28 million in pension funds to be distributed before the company even begins to deal with severance.
“They won’t deal with severance until the pension issue is finalized and they’re dragging their feet as much as they can,” he said.
The company has suffered losses at every step since it began fighting the pension issue, receiving unfavourable decisions from the provincial superintendent of pensions, the Financial Services Commission of Ontario, the Ontario Divisional Court and the Ontario Court of Appeals.
He said FSCO could levy fines against the company if it doesn’t comply.
Requests for comment from Navistar weren’t returned.