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FEEDBACK: Don’t agree with the Caterpillar rant

A manufacturer offers an alternate view of Caterpillar’s dealings with the CAW and the subsequent closure of the Electro-Motive locomotive plant in London, Ont.


February 16, 2012
Joe Terrett

I have just read your article on Caterpillar (Electro-Motive: Caterpillar’s corporate greed).

I don’t agree with your “rant.” I lived in Peoria, Ill. (home of Caterpillar Corp.) for five years in the late 1970s and early 1980s – at that time the Detroit 3 continued to give away the store to the UAW and the CAW responding to their unsustainable demands.

Caterpillar chose a different route as it faced global competition, especially from the Japanese construction equipment giant, Komatsu. Caterpillar took multi-year strikes and kept the factories going with salaried staff to ensure that it could continue to compete globally – and compare the results. Cat never went bankrupt as did GM and Chrysler (requiring billions of taxpayer dollars in both Canada and the US), and they have worked very hard to successfully maintain a global position.

Some Canadian unions have advocated a “no concessions” approach and have put themselves in an adversarial relationship with some companies in contrast to the current UAW and various German unions that have evolved to become part of a competitive “solution.”

Cat had labour difficulties with a Canadian plant in the 1980s in the Brampton area (I believe) – they already had some serious negative experiences with the union environment in Canada – and the general work rules and attitude in the London plant did not foster a spirit of cooperation dating back many years. [Caterpillar’s actions] were not based on the “moment” but a long history of recognizing that the union and federal and provincial government attitudes/regulations are difficult for industry to deal with.

At the same time, Walmart’s Canadian customer base is very happy to buy daily goods imported from areas where they are manufactured at a much lower cost than in Canada. So what is wrong with corporations making choices on where to manufacture – and in this case the US, a low-cost country with neither purported safety nor environmental standards.

In conclusion, I think there is a much more balanced – informed, factual base that you may have considered reporting on.

Roy Verstraete
President & CEO
Anchor Danly
Windsor, Ont.

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