Caterpillar, union reach agreement

Caterpillar Inc. reached an agreement with United Steelworkers Local 1343 at its facility in South Milwaukee Friday.

“We reached a tentative agreement over the weekend,” said Tony Montana, a national United Steelworkers communications representative. “Our members met with their negotiating committee to review the tentative agreement yesterday, and the vote for ratification is tomorrow.”

The union represents about 800 workers in South Milwaukee. Members will be able to vote at the Local 1343 office from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow.

The Peoria, Ill.-based company and the union have been negotiating since April 2 on the first USW contract under Caterpillar ownership. The facility became part of Caterpillar when the mining giant acquired Oak Creek-based Bucyrus International Inc. in July 2011. Oak Creek now serves as the mining headquarters.

Caterpillar representative Rusty Dunn emphasized that a company proposal will be taken to a vote by the union, but it is not a tentative agreement.

The company has no further comment until after the vote is completed, Dunn said.

According to the Caterpillar negotiation website, the six-year contract would freeze wages, eliminate some seniority protections and increase the cost of health care. It would also provide some new annual bonuses.

The company has agreed to a $2,500 bonus per employee if the contract is ratified by April 30.

The union has not endorsed or rejected the contract, but has asked members to review it and make their own decisions, said Ross Winklbauer, United Steelworkers union sub-district director of District 4.

“It’s not a great contract, obviously…because we’re dealing with Caterpillar,” Winklbauer said. “If you look at any CAT contract throughout the country, they’ve never been a great contract.”

Citing declining demand, Caterpillar recently announced it will temporarily lay off 250 to 300 of its South Milwaukee employees by June.

While the union is unsure whether the company will go through with the layoffs, there is some information in the tentative agreement about temporary layoffs, he said.

“There’s language in there about temporary layoffs,” Winklbauer said. “There’s also language in there that if you are temporarily laid off, there’s some supplemental pay in there too.”

According to the negotiation website, employees would receive a layoff payment of $170 per week for temporary layoffs and $85 per day for day-at-a-time layoffs.

The proposal also includes a provision for increased 401(k) matching.

Winklbauer declined to provide any further information about the agreement until the vote has concluded.

Caterpillar reported a 17 percent dip in sales and profits declined 45 percent in the first quarter.

The company also plans to permanently lay off 460 supplemental employees from its plant in Decatur, Ill. And according to the Peoria Journal Star, the company announced last week that 60 workers will be indefinitely laid off in Mapleton, Ill.

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display