CAW calls for review of Electro-Motive acquisition by Caterpillar

The union says Caterpillar is trying to force workers out through massive wage cuts and the eliminating pensions at Canada’s only locomotive manufacturing plant.

December 28, 2011   by The Canadian Press

TORONTO—Canada’s largest private sector union has called upon Ottawa to review the purchase of Canada’s only locomotive manufacturing plant by U.S.-based Caterpillar Inc. in 2010.

The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union says hundreds of jobs at the Electro-Motive plant in London, Ont., are potentially at stake.

CAW president Ken Lewenza says the future of the plant is in peril.

“Government inaction and ineffective foreign investment rules could result in the end of more than 60 years of high value-added manufacturing and the loss of 800 good jobs,” he says.

CAW Local 27 represents some 650 production and skilled trades workers at the facility.

Under the Investment Canada Act, notification of the acquisition of Electro-Motive was filed with the minister of industry and approved.

“A receipt was issued in September 2010 declaring the investment required no further review,” CAW says.

Caterpillar bought the London plant in June 2010, but within less than a year of the purchase three other locations in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil were slated to build EMD locomotives.

CAW says the company is now demanding massive wage cuts from its London workers and eliminating pensions.

Lewenza says it increasingly looks like the company is trying to force workers out on the street, “providing convenient cover for any plans to move production out of Canada.”

Last June, members of the CAW Local at the plant voted 69 per cent in favour of a seven-month contract extension after what their union described as a “tough” round of negotiations.

That contract extension expires Dec. 31.

Lewenza said there is broad agreement among industry experts that Caterpillar’s long-term interest in Electro-Motive centres on plans to acquire long-sought after technology and to bring production to the U.S. to gain access to state government incentives.

“Canada doesn’t need another job-destroying failed foreign investment,” he says.

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