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The Globe and Mail

London retailer removes Caterpillar boots in support of local workers

CAW workers picket outside at the Electro-Motive plant in London, Ont., on Feb. 3, 2012. American-based heavy equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. announced Friday it was closing the plant, a month after it locked out about 450 workers.

Mark Spowart/CP/Mark Spowart/CP

Caterpillar boots – heavy tan work boots associated with heavy labour – were removed from the shelves of a national clothing chain's London, Ont. stores over the weekend, to support hundreds of workers of a locomotive plant who are losing their jobs.

Mark's Work Wearhouse announced the move on its Facebook page Saturday and Graham Morley, the retailer's district manager in the Greater London Area, told media outlets that many customers worked at the Electro-Motive plant that is now being shut down.

At the time, he said it was a local decision to withhold the Caterpillar products from sale, suggesting it was a temporary move.

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Many people added their support to the Facebook page, some saying the boots be banned from all Mark's Work Wearhouse shelves across the country.

By late Sunday, however, Mr. Morley would not confirm or deny whether the boots were still being sold. "If you are asking me anything about Caterpillar, I can't make any comment at this time," he said.

A telephone call placed to one of the London stores revealed the boots are still not being carried.

The U.S.-based Caterpillar revealed its plans to close the plant on Friday following a labour dispute in which it has asked 450 employees to take a 50 per cent pay cut to help keep Electro-Motive going. The Canadian Auto Workers had rejected the proposal and the company locked them out Jan. 1st.

Caterpillar subsidiary Progress Rail Services has said the cost structure at the London plant was unsustainable. Last week, Caterpillar reported a 58 per cent increase in its quarterly earnings with a record profit of nearly $5-billion.

Despite the layoffs, former employees still say they will picket the plant and the CAW is calling for a public inquiry into the closure.

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