Talks suspended between Caterpillar, Milwaukee workers' union


Caterpillar Inc said Thursday that a bid by the United Steelworkers Union to re-open contract talks on behalf of workers in Milwaukee who make mining machinery had not resulted in a breakthrough and that no new meetings between the two sides were scheduled.

The existing contract, which covers 800 workers that Caterpillar inherited with its 2010 purchase of Bucyrus, expired on April 30.

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Last week, those workers rejected a proposed new contract offered by the company that, among other things, would have frozen wages for existing workers in the Milwaukee bargaining unit and created a second, lower-tier wage level for newer hires.

While apparently far apart, neither side appears poised for a showdown. The workers, who make giant mining shovels and draglines that dwarf much of the other heavy equipment Caterpillar makes, have said they will continue to report for work under the existing contract.

A Caterpillar spokesman said Thursday that while no new talks were scheduled, "we remain open to listening".

Caterpillar says the concessions are needed, in part, because of the downturn in its sales to the global mining industry.

Last month, the company said it was laying off more than 10 percent of the workforce at a plant in Decatur, Illinois that makes mining equipment.

Caterpillar said the layoffs, which affected 460 workers, were needed to "bring production in line with demand."

Caterpillar is the world's largest maker of mining equipment. The Peoria, Illinois-based company also makes construction equipment, gas turbines and diesel engines, and railroad locomotives.

(Reporting by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)