Union plans rally at U.S. Caterpillar plant

Negotiations at a standstill as strike enters second week
|labour-reporter.com|Last Updated: 05/08/2012

(Reuters) — Union members at a Caterpillar Inc. plant in Joliet, Illinois have scheduled a rally for May 11 to gather support for their strike against the company, which is now in its second week.

About 800 Caterpillar employees, represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union (IAM), walked off the job on May 1 after negotiators failed to agree on a new contract.

Caterpillar responded by bringing in replacement workers so that production schedules could stay on track.

"We're doing this to rally the troops and bring the community into what is happening," Steve Jones, an official with the IAM Local 851, said on May 8.

Talks between the IAM and Caterpillar are currently on hold.

"No new negotiations are scheduled," Caterpillar spokesman Rusty Dunn said. "The Joliet facility continues to work safely and effectively."

Caterpillar has characterized its recent proposal, delivered in April, as its "final offer." The company posted details about its offer on jolietbargainingupdates.cat.com.

Caterpillar's offer was rejected because it did not include sufficient pay raises and called for higher health care costs, union officials said. Caterpillar's six-year contract offer had included a $5,000 ratification payment and participation in the company's annual bonus plan.

The plant produces hydraulic components and systems for a variety of Caterpillar machines, including track-type tractors, wheel loaders and mining trucks.

IAM's strike follows a high-profile labour dispute that took place late last year between Caterpillar and the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) at a locomotive plant in London, Ont. CAW workers voted down a Caterpillar offer that was asking some workers to take a 50 per cent wage cut. The company ended up closing the plant and moving the work elsewhere in February.

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