SOUTH MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Huge cuts are on the way at Caterpillar Global Mining in South Milwaukee.
The maker of heavy mining equipment rounded up employees on Thursday morning, March 28th to let them know they might not have a job in a few months.
Kevin Jaskie has worked at the Caterpillar plant for 18 years as a welder. He says workers told him there are plans to cut 40% of the workforce at the South Milwaukee plant. That could mean a loss of up to 300 jobs.
"I have a family, and a wife, and a house payment just like everybody else. Of course I'm concerned," said Jaskie.
Caterpillar officials say business is slowing. They released the following statement on the matter: "Various Caterpillar facilities and business units are taking action to bring our production in line with demand, including our operations in South Milwaukee. This includes some short-term temporary layoffs and other actions. These actions vary from location to location and impact both production and support and management employees. We know this is difficult for our employees, but we are taking steps to better align with the current economic circumstances, while at the same time remain focused on positioning the Company for long-term success."
Union officials with United Steelworkers aren't buying the company explanation.
"What is Caterpillar hoping to accomplish by five days before negotiations begin to scare and threaten the workers with a massive layoff?" said union member Ross Winklbauer.
Caterpillar and members of United Steelworkers are on the eve of sitting down to work on a new contract. Winklbauer believes looming layoffs could be used as a bargaining chip. He says there have been signs company bosses want to intimidate union workers.
"If they really have planned this massive layoff, why have they contracted with Milwaukee Area technical college to train replacement workers, scabs, when things are as slow as what they try and tell us," said Winklbauer.
The company says those claims are bogus. Officials say the cuts will affect every department, including management, and non-union workers.
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