7 March, 2013Trade unions at Caterpillar in Belgium stand united in face of Caterpillar’s announcement that it intends to lay off 1,400 workers at its plant in Gosselies.
IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in Belgium have reacted strongly to Caterpillar’s plans to cut 1,400 jobs (1,100 production workers and 300 administrative staff) at its facility in Gosselies near Charleroi, which currently employs a total of 3,700 people. In addition, management has indicated that 190 temporary contracts would not be renewed.
Belgian unions are outraged by Caterpillar’s move. “It is disgraceful that a company which makes record profits and benefits from federal aid and regional subsidies can announce a social plan of such magnitude. Beyond the numbers, it is the future of thousands of families which is being held hostage,” they state in a joint press communiqué.
Since this announcement, unions have stressed the importance of building a large common front, including not only workers and trade unions at the Caterpillar’s plant but also at its subcontractors to develop a joint strategy against the company’s restructuring plan. “We favour social dialogue to find solutions that will ensure the sustainability of the plant but we will change gear and take strong action if we are not heard” warned a union representative. A meeting with management is planned for Thursday 7 March.
IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina sent a letter of solidarity to the workers at Gosselies. “If we have to meet the economic challenges confronting us, this should not be at the expense of employment and social benefits; nor cannot it be by pitting workers against each other or by threatening them with outsourcing. We have to defend the real economy, we have to defend and promote the industry,” he stated.
The Charleroi facility is Caterpillar’s main production centre in Europe. It produces excavators for the European market and is one of the biggest employers in the region. Caterpillar’s industrial plan has no substance and does not offer any guarantee for the future say the unions. The priority of the union common front is to examine all possible avenues that could prevent this “social aggression”. The unions have given a strike notice for an unlimited length of time.