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A Jan. 7, 2011, file photo of CAW president Ken Lewenza. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
A Jan. 7, 2011, file photo of CAW president Ken Lewenza. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

CAW members vote to strike at London, Ont., Caterpillar plant Add to ...

Members of the Canadian Auto Workers union say they have voted in favour of a strike at Canada’s only locomotive manufacturing plant, owned by U.S.-based Caterpillar Inc. .

About 98 per cent of CAW Local 27 members voted to strike if necessary, at a meeting held Friday morning.

The union, which represents some 650 production and skilled trades workers at the plant in London, Ont., has been negotiating with the heavy equipment giant since November in an effort to reach a new collective agreement that would replace a current six-month extension.

The contract deadline is set for just before 12 a.m. Sunday.

Caterpillar bought the London plant in June, 2010, but within less than a year of the purchase three other locations in the U.S., Mexico and Brazil were slated to build locomotives.

The CAW says the company’s final offer would slash wages in half, result in drastic cuts to benefits and eliminate the pension plan – at a time when sales, profits and executive pay have soared to record highs.

It has accused the company of purposely trying to put workers out of jobs in order to shift production to the U.S. or Mexico.

The company could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

The union is concerned that Caterpillar may try to change the terms and conditions of employment once the collective agreement expires, but CAW national president Ken Lewenza said that if the terms and conditions remain, the employees will not strike.

“We believe Caterpillar is trying to provoke a labour dispute so they can pull out of this country,” said Mr. Lewenza.

“Since purchasing Electro-Motive last year, Caterpillar has shown very little desire to continue production in Canada and now they’re looking for an excuse to shut down operations and leave, despite being highly profitable.”

The CAW called on the federal government last week to review Caterpillar’s purchase of the plant back in 2010, saying the future of the plant and 800 jobs are in peril.

Under the Investment Canada Act, notification of the acquisition of Electro-Motive was filed with the minister of industry and approved.

Last June, members of the CAW Local at the plant voted 69 per cent in favour of a seven-month contract extension after what their union described as a “tough” round of negotiations.

Mr. Lewenza has said there is broad agreement among industry experts that Caterpillar’s long-term interest in Electro-Motive “centres on plans to acquire long-sought after technology and to bring production to the U.S. to gain access to state government incentives.”

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  • Caterpillar Inc
  • Updated October 19 4:00 PM EDT. Delayed by at least 15 minutes.

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