* Caterpillar Gosselies site employees 3,700 people
* Cites high costs, economy, environmental laws
BRUSSELS Feb 28 Caterpillar Inc, the
world's largest maker of construction equipment, plans to cut
1,400 jobs at a plant near Charleroi in Belgium due to high
costs and the weak European economy, the group's Belgian unit
said on Thursday.
The cuts will come at the Gosselies site just outside of
Charleroi, one of the largest Caterpillar facilities in Europe,
where the group makes hydraulic excavators, loading vehicles and
engine parts. The site employs 3,700 people.
"Though they are painful, these measures are indispensable
to allow us to be competitive and give a chance of survival to
our factory," said Nicolas Polutnik, CEO of Caterpillar Belgium.
The job cuts at Caterpillar are the latest in a string of
large-scale layoffs in Belgium.
The world's largest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal,
said in January it planned to shut facilities at its site in
Liege, with the likely loss of around 1,300 jobs, while Ford
Motor Co announced last October it would close its plant
in Genk, affecting 4,000 workers.
"The numbers we have received are a catastrophe, and that in
a region like Charleroi...," a spokeswoman for the socialist
FGTB union said.
About one in five people in Charleroi are unemployed, double
Belgium's national average.
Apart from the economic slowdown in Europe and increased
competition, Caterpillar said its products faced different
environmental rules in different parts of the world, which made
its production process more complicated.
Caterpillar said costs were so high at present that it would
be cheaper to import machines from elsewhere than produce them
at the Belgian plant.
Caterpillar has invested 210 million euros ($275.3
million)in the site in the past five years.