OSHKOSH - Union workers at Oshkosh Corporation's defense division are preparing to head back to the bargaining table with the company.
Members voted Tuesday to reopen talks on a five-year contract extension.
At stake is a military contract worth up to $13 billion to build the replacement vehicle for the military Humvee.
But even if Oshkosh gets the military contract, production of that vehicle is years away.
So what will happen in the meantime?
Oshkosh Corporation's defense division says it is preparing for hard times ahead. The company saw years of increased work and profits because of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But as those battles come to a close, so are Oshkosh's current military contracts.
In fiscal 2007, Defense sales were $1.4 billion. The numbers continued to increase, reaching a high of $7.5 billion in 2010. This year sales are projected to be down to $3.1 billion with further declines projected for 2014 and 2015.
A company spokesperson declined to comment on camera, but the company has cited a slowdown in military orders because of shrinking defense budgets. The company is forecasting declining sales and has hinted at the potential for further layoffs in the future.
299 workers were laid off in January of this year. Another 541 union and salaried employees were laid off in June and July. Now 2,800 employees remain at Oshkosh Defense. At its peak 4,000 employees worked at the company in 2012.
"This committee's number one objective is keeping good jobs in this area. That's what we're gonna do, that's what we're gonna continue to fight to do," said UAW Local 578 President Joe Preisler on Tuesday.
Just two years ago more than 2,000 people lined the sidewalks around the Oshkosh City Center looking for work at Oshkosh Corporation.
At the time the company was hiring 750 people to help fill orders for a military contract that is now nearing completion.
But the company also says that is what makes the competition for the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle so difficult. Oshkosh is one of three companies vying for the work. The company says the contract could be for 50,000 vehicles. Production could start in a limited capacity in late 2015 with full production set for 2018.
As the company and the union head back to the bargaining table to work on a contract extension through 2021, both sides realize the importance of what lies ahead for the company, the workers and the community.
Oshkosh Corporation has set a September 30th deadline for contract extension talks with the union.
If a deal isn't in place, the company has said it will look to move the JLTV project elsewhere.
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