May 20, 2013 / 11:51 PM / 5 years ago

Caterpillar, Milwaukee workers union to resume contract talks

CHICAGO, May 20 (Reuters) - Caterpillar Inc said late on Monday that it would resume contract talks with the union representing about 800 Milwaukee workers who make specialized mining machinery.

The company said the two sides would reconvene on Thursday, May 23, ending a two-week hiatus in discussions.

The existing contract covering the workers, who were inherited with Caterpillar’s 2010 purchase of Bucyrus and are represented by the United Steelworkers Union, expired on April 30.

The workers have rejected a proposed new contract offered by the company that, among other things, would freeze wages for existing workers and create a second, lower-tier wage level for new hires.

The Milwaukee workers, who make giant mining shovels and draglines that dwarf much of the other heavy equipment Caterpillar produces, have said they would continue to report for work under the existing contract.

In April, Caterpillar said it was laying off more than 10 percent of the workforce at a Decatur, Illinois, plant that makes mining equipment.

Caterpillar said the layoffs, which affected 460 workers, were needed to “bring production in line with demand.”

Several hundred workers in the Milwaukee unit also face layoffs as a result of a decline in orders from mining companies.

Caterpillar is the world’s largest maker of mining equipment. The Peoria, Illinois-based company also makes construction equipment, gas turbines and diesel engines, as well as railroad locomotives.

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