Caterpillar negotiations stalled

Negotiations between Caterpillar Inc. and United Steelworkers Local 1343 have stalled in South Milwaukee.

The union, which represents about 800 workers at the facility, voted to reject a six-year labor proposal from the company on April 30.

The company’s proposal would have frozen workers’ wages for six years and increased their share of payment for health care benefits. The company also has announced plans to lay off 250 to 300 workers in South Milwaukee.

Union officials then met with Caterpillar on Wednesday to make a few counter offers, said Ross Winklbauer, United Steelworkers District 4 director.

“The company listened, but unfortunately on Wednesday they were not ready to sit down and basically talk,” Winklbauer said. “They kind of listened to what we had to say, that was pretty much it at that point.”

No further meetings are currently scheduled, the company said.

Local 1343 is willing to sit down and negotiate, but the company also has to be willing to talk, Winklbauer said.

“We’re hoping that the company decides they want to sit back down and talk and the two sides can then meet and do what we can to get this contract settled,” he said.

When the South Milwaukee facility became a part of Caterpillar in the 2011 acquisition of Bucyrus International Inc., Local 1343 had already represented those workers for 76 years, Winklbauer said. As a result, the workers have a big stake in the company.

The company and Local 1343 have been negotiating since April 2 on the first Caterpillar contract for the union.

Union members will continue to work and help Caterpillar remain one of the top mining equipment manufacturers in the world, he said.

“That’s one of the reasons why we’re still working,” he said. “We want to produce good quality products that they take pride in.”
Workers will continue to operate under the contract that expired April 30 until an agreement is reached, Winklbauer said.

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