The former Navistar Plant in Chatham. (File photo by Trevor Thompson)

Navistar Retirees Banquet Still Going Strong

Almost a decade after the last Navistar International workers in Chatham were laid off, former employees are still getting together to reminisce about the time they spent there.

The annual 15-Year and Retirees Banquet is taking place next week and co-chairman Cy Addley says if the turnout is anything like it has been over the past few years, more than 160 people will be showing up.

He’s also quick to add that the event is not run by Navistar or the union, it’s just a social gathering.

“I don’t let it become a political thing — it never has and it never will be,” says Addley alluding to the pension battle between former employees and the company. “You’re there to meet with your fellow former employees and have a good get-together with a good meal.”

A nearly eight-year long fight for severance pay owed to former production and office employees at Navistar ended earlier this year when an arbitrator ruled in favour of the union, to award all entitled workers their outstanding payments under the Employment Standards Act.

Workers were laid off in 2009, but the plant didn’t officially close until 2011.

Even though the plant has been shut down for a few years now, Addler says they have no plans to stop holding the banquet anytime soon.

“We’re going to try to keep this going as long as we can — as long as people are interested and willing to go,” says Addley. “I’d venture to say there are still 2,000 people collecting a pension out of that place not including the latest batch.”

The annual banquet has a lot of history behind it, too. Addler says he’s not sure how many years it has been going on exactly, but he’s confident it was already being held prior to 1948 when the plant moved from Grand Ave. to Richmond St. in Chatham. He’s been personally co-chairing the event for more than three decades.

“I was going to do it for one year,” says Addler with a chuckle. “And now it’s been 31 years.”

This year’s banquet is taking place at the Spirit and Life Centre in Chatham on April 28.

Anyone who’s interested in going should contact Cy Addley for ticket information. He can be reached at 519-354-0413.