Navistar axes 275 workers in West Point

WEST POINT – Navistar International has laid off 275 of its workers at its West Point facility, days after losing a Pentagon bid to build more mine-resistant, ambush-protected, or MRAP, vehicles.
On June 30, Navistar Defense, a subsidiary of Warrenville, Ill.-based Navistar International, announced that it would “continue to grow its business” even though it was not selected to produce the U.S. Army’s MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle, or M-ATV.
Instead, Oshkosh Corp., of Wisconsin, won the bid to build 2,244 of the vehicles for $1.05 billion.
Because the West Point plant runs on a contract basis in which employment depends on the projects it receives, Navistar had to let go the employees, company officials said.
The layoffs were immediate, said company spokeswoman Elissa Koc.
Severance packages were given to the employees, who could be rehired if future contracts are obtained, Koc said.
About 200 employees will remain to finish ongoing work at the plant.
Navistar is building 262 Husky tactical support vehicles for the British in West Point, in addition to other work for the U.S. military.
“We will continue to look for new vehicle programs to bring additional business into West Point,” said Koc.
Navistar won more than $3 billion in contracts to build 5,222 MaxxPro MRAPs and it won a $752 million contract to build 822 of the MaxxPro Dash, a lighter version of the MaxxPro.
The winning company
Oshkosh won the contract over other bids from two other U.S. companies: General Dynamics’ Combat Systems group and Force Protection. Another bid was submitted by the U.S.-based subsidiary of BAE Systems of the United Kingdom.
The U.S. Marine Corps said the contract could exceed $3.3 billion.
And according to stock analyst firm Morningstar, one reason Navistar may have lost the bid is that it decided to build its own armor system instead of partnering with Plasan, the Israeli defense company that helped with the MaxxPro.
Oshosh’s partner in its winning bid – Plasan.
It’s not the first job loss at the West Point plant. Some 250 employees lost their jobs in October as MaxxPro production finished, although company officials called the move a “work force reduction” rather than a layoff since employees are hired through an employment agency as contract workers.
The current round of layoffs will not help the region’s unemployment rate, which reached 11.6 percent in May, according to the most recent figures available from the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. The jobless rate for Clay County was 16.7 percent, the highest in the 16-county region.

Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

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