Representatives of Caterpillar workers from across Europe rallied in Geneva today to protest the company’s plans to shut plants in Belgium and Northern Ireland.
About 200 representatives from metalworkers’ unions from Belgium, Northern Ireland, France, Italy and Germany braved inclement weather today to rally outside the United Nations buildings in Place des Nations, Geneva before marching on Caterpillar’s headquarters.
They are protesting restructuring plans announced by Caterpillar in September, which will see the closure of the Gosselies plant in Belgium, and the Monkstown plant in Northern Ireland.
The protest was organized by industriAll Europe.
About 2,500 jobs are directly affected, with many thousands more indirectly affected. The restructuring will also affect other plants across Europe, and unions are concerned about the company’s long term commitment to its workforce on the continent.
Caterpillar’s restructuring plans also affect plants in Japan, the US, Australia and Brazil. During the IndustriALL Congress in Brazil in October, a world meeting of the Caterpillar union network was held. The United Steelworkers and the Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers’ Unions sent messages of solidarity, pledging to fight with European unions.
Speaking at Place des Nations, IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Valter Sanches said:
“I bring you the support and solidarity of our 50 million members around the world. We stand with you against this assault on your livelihoods and your communities, and we support you in the struggle against the deindustrialization of Europe.”
Union representatives met with Caterpillar managers at the company’s headquarters in a bid to stop the social and industrial catastrophe.
The unions developed a joint set of demands, which they put to the company:
- To put an end to the restructuring, as well as the safeguarding of sites and know-how, which are much needed in Europe.
- Caterpillar to commit to a long-term industrial strategy which ensures the future of its activities throughout Europe.
- For a genuine social dialogue with Caterpillar’s decision-makers, which respects national and European laws on information and consultation for the entire restructuring process.
- Discussion and consideration of alternative proposals for sustainable and socially responsible economic development.