More layoffs at Cat’s Joliet plant
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org September 30, 2013 8:42PM
Updated: November 2, 2013 6:14AM
Caterpillar’s Joliet plant was hit with more layoff notices Monday, but company officials wouldn’t say who was affected or how many workers lost their jobs.
Company spokeswoman Rachel Potts confirmed in an email that “notifications” were occurring at the Joliet plant Monday.
“And we are not detailing what notifications means, it varies,” she said. “But, yes, it does include some layoff notifications in regards to Joliet.”
Union members estimated that about 100 more machinists would lose their jobs as of Oct. 7, said Todd Maland, recording secretary for Local 851 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
The plant’s workforce has been shrinking all year, with many layoffs in June, he said. About 780 machinists went on strike last year, but there are only 385 machinists on the payroll now. This month’s layoffs will bring the number closer to 280, Maland estimated.
Caterpillar supervisors went to every employee on Monday letting them know their fate, he said.
“The morale is at an all-time low,” said Maland, who has worked at the plant for 18 years. “I can honestly say this is the first time in my life I can see us getting to the end of the contract (in 2018), and I can see it closing up.”
The 1.3-million-square-foot plant is the global headquarters for Caterpillar’s hydraulics unit.
Joliet wasn’t the only company location targeted for layoffs. Caterpillar workers in Wisconsin and Decatur also are receiving pink slips, and the layoffs are also hitting supervisors and support staff, according to published reports.
Potts said the company had given general notice that cuts would be coming.
“We stated in our second-quarter financial results released in July that the company would be taking actions to reduce costs in the second half of the year,” she said. “The employee notifications in Joliet are included in those actions. We are not breaking out specific location totals or details.”
In May 2012, machinists at the Joliet plant, which is on U.S. 6 west of Larkin Avenue, walked off the job in a bitter contract dispute with the Peoria-based company. The contract was settled Aug. 17, 2012, but many workers were upset with giving up benefits when the company was reporting record profits.
Since then, Caterpillar profits have dropped, and business has been down for the company’s earth-moving and mining equipment. The second-quarter report stated that sales and revenue were $14.6 billion, down from $17.4 billion in the second quarter of 2012, and that profit was $960 million, down from $1.7 billion in 2012’s second quarter.
A decline in dealer inventory and mining orders is turning 2013 into a “tough year,” for Caterpillar, Potts said.
The company has responded with “temporary factory shutdowns, rolling layoffs throughout much of the company, reductions in our flexible workforce, and we’ve reduced discretionary and program costs,” Potts said.
Caterpillar said worldwide full-time employment was 122,402 at the end of the second quarter, down from 132,825 at the same point in 2012.