February 22, 1999

Letter to the editor, re: Western Star Trucks

Dear Editor:

The affiliates of the North Okanagan Labour Council are concerned about Western Star's announcement that they will be building and operating an assembly plant in Charleston, South Carolina.

While we understand Western Star has given the employees and media assurances that the operation in Kelowna will not be affected, we have asked Western Star's Chief Executive Officer Robert Enright, in a letter, if he is willing to give assurances in writing that production will not shift to the United States once the new plant is in operation.

We understand that local government incentives in Charleston as well as labour costs and proximity to the eastern market are very attractive to Western Star. At present, Western Star's sales are good enough to keep two production plants in operation.

However, we are concerned about what may happen when the market takes a down-turn and production slows. Where will the layoffs take place? Our suspicion is that will be in Kelowna.

As a result of Western Star's announcement, not only is there a nervous workforce at Western Star, but also at feeder plants, such as Northside Steel, Monashee Manufacturing and Interior Truck, which supply parts and equipment.

Western Star is a major player in the local economy. Any plant closures or significant cutbacks would have a devastating effect on the people and the economy of this community.

It is with that in mind that we ask Western Star, as one of the leading corporate citizens in this community, to maintain the status quo at its Kelowna plant, and, in fact, if the market is good enough, to expand its operation in Kelowna, rather than South Carolina.

Marie Mentz,
North Okanagan Labour Council


* Note: Since this letter, Western Star, with significant backing from the provincial government, has committed to building a new plant in Kelowna. The NOLC believes our lobbying played a small role in this announcement.


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