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Cat Mining Cuts Widen

Posted on March 29, 2013

Following news of potential job cuts at its South Milwaukee mining equipment manufacturing operations, Caterpillar Inc. said it will also lay off 460 people permanently at its Decatur, Ill. facilities. The layoffs will affect about 11 percent of the workforce and, Cat said, reflects the softening demand from the global mining industry.

Caterpillar had already implemented temporary layoffs and line shutdowns as well as a shortened work week in Decatur, said the permanent layoffs were needed to "bring production in line with demand."  It said the job cuts would take effect in 60 days.

The Decatur announcement followed reports that Cat might lay off up to 300 employees at its Milwaukee-area factories before June.

The Milwaukee-area layoffs, were described as short-term and temporary, will include up to 40% of the manufacturing workforce at the South Milwaukee and Milwaukee plants that build some of the Cat’s biggest mining machines.

On the other hand, contract negotiations with the United Steelworkers union in the area to begin soon, leading some to wonder if the announcement isn’t the first salvo in labor negotiations.

Companywide, the extent of the layoffs will vary by location and will include salaried and hourly employees, Caterpillar says.  "It's not a one-size-fits-all response," said company spokesman Rusty Dunn, reportedly told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. 

The Steelworkers union has represented employees at the mining equipment factory in South Milwaukee for many years, but this will be the first contract negotiations since Caterpillar acquired the factory as part of its $7.6 billion purchase of the former Bucyrus International in 2010.