Union reps protest at CAT offices

National event attempts to draw attention to company, government actions

Published on January 27, 2012
Representatives from the local chapter of the Canadian Auto Workers union — (from left) Carolyn Wrice, Kim Flight, Dennis Simms, Dave Griffiths and Wayne Butler (not pictured) — picket outside a Caterpillar outlet on Kenmount Road in St. John’s Thursday morning. The action was to draw attention to a dispute between workers at a CAT subsidiary in Ontario and the construction equipment giant. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram

A handful of representatives from the local chapter of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union added their voices to a cross-Canada protest action Thursday morning at Caterpillar’s offices on Kenmount Road in St. John’s.

The CAW’s national board arranged to have a union presence at CAT locations across the country, speaking out against the equipment provider’s planned pullout of London, Ont., and the federal government’s response to the disagreement between workers and the company at that location, focused on labour costs.

The CAW has come out in support of the workers, but also is upset over the fact the company has now decided to leave the location, after taking incentives from the federal government.

The action at Caterpillar locations was timed to happen as the company released its annual re­port.

The CAW has said jobs are not an issue locally and Caterpillar has not asked employees here for the same kind of changes it requested in Ontario. Across the country, the CAW is protesting the 50 per cent wage cut and other concessions being demanded of its members at a locomotive factory in southwestern Ontario.

“There’s the whole issue of the lack of government interference in the dispute in London, Ontario, and government policy which allows acompany like Caterpillar to come into this country and threaten workers, throw them out on the street, threaten to cut their wages by half,” said local CAW representative Wayne Butler.

“Secondly, of course, it’s the whole issue of an international company like Caterpillar walking into a profitable organization like Electro-Motive in Ontario — Caterpillar itself has made millions of dollars of profit this year.”

The union set up pickets in a dozen cities across Canada to bring attention to the lockout of nearly 500 employees at Caterpillar’s Electro-Motive subsidiary in London, Ont.

Meanwhile, Caterpillar an­nounc­­ed it had record-high sales and a profit of almost US$5 billion last year.

The union said it believes the company is being greedy and immoral, given that Caterpillar chief executive Doug Oberhelman received $10.5 million in pay last year, twice what he got the year before.

“At a time when inequality is rapidly growing, it’s vital that we take a stand with this company,” CAW national president Ken Lewenza said in a statement.

At Caterpillar headquarters in Peoria, Ill., the company an­nounced its fourth-quarter profit jumped 60 per cent, boosted by a steep increase in global demand for its products.

Caterpillar’s profit for all of 2011, expressed in U.S. dollars, was $4.9 billion, up 83 per cent from $2.7 billion in 2010. Profit per share was $7.40, up 78 per cent. Revenue was a record $60.1 billion, up 41 per cent from 2010.

It also said 2012 is shaping up for another year of growth. The company estimates sales revenue will be in a range of $68 billion to $72 billion for the year. Profit per share is expected to be about $9.25.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com