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In pictures: How laid-off Caterpillar workers are faring eight months later

Caterpillar Inc. closed its 62-year-old Electro-Motive Diesel locomotive plant in London, Ont. in February, putting about 700 people out of work, including 485 unionized members. The heavy-equipment maker cited a need to stay competitive as the reason, and had asked its London workers to take pay cuts of up to 50 per cent. It is now beefing up operations in lower-cost centres in Muncie, Ind. and Sete Lagoas, Brazil. Half a year later in Canada, the headlines have faded, the story largely forgotten. But for many of the former workers at EMD, the grind only started with the job loss. As the severance runs out and bills pile up in a still-soft jobs market, the financial and emotional strain is showing. The Globe and Mail is tracking the impact of the plant shutdown by following the outcomes of half a dozen displaced workers along with community members in London.

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Kelly Gordon, 40, worked as a welder at Electro-Motive in London, Ont. for six-and-a-half years.

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The single mother now works one day a week at the local Canadian Auto Workers job action centre, and is considering opportunities in Alberta.

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Back to school has meant no new clothes for Ms. Gordon’s daughter, nor can they afford repairs on their truck. They’ve been scrambling to cover school costs, given that student loans were late in coming through. “It’s been really tough,” says Ms. Gordon.

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Wade Purdy, 47, worked at EMD for 23 years. His son-in-law also worked at the plant. Since the shutdown, Mr. Purdy and his wife have been helping take care of their son-in-law, daughter and granddaughter. Pictured: Wade Purdy with his daughter Ashley and granddaughter Ava at home in September.

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Mr. Purdy is starting a job that is an hour and 10 minutes each way. It’s also $15 an hour below what he used to make with EMD. His son-in-law and nephew who also worked at the plant both have yet to find anything.

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The job market these days is “horrible,” Mr. Purdy says, leaving him with little choice but a lengthy commute.

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Ross Seeley worked at EMD for 29-and-a-half years and was just six months from retirement.

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He is now in limbo, still waiting to hear what kind of pension he'll get.

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He now works part time in a restaurant and takes care of his two-year-old grandson. Pictured: Mr. Seeley with his daughter Jessica and grandson Jaeden at home in September.

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Ted Radaczynski, a former machinist at Electro-Motive, is still looking for work.

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He has been living off his severance package since the plant shut down will now start collecting employment insurance while he continues to look for work.

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Mr. Radaczynski has applied to many positions in London and around Central Canada, but so far nothing has materialized.

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Ralf Zapke worked as a welder and overhead crane operator at Electro Motive for 18 years. He was on sick leave, diagnosed with terminal cancer, when the company shut his doors. He outlasted his prognosis, going to the gym, eating healthy food, and getting chemo. On Sept. 13, Mr. Zapke passed away at London's Victoria Hospital. He was 50. Photo: Ralf and his wife Lise in February, 2012.

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Ralph Zapke in London’s Victoria Hospital in May, 2012.

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Ralf Zapke at home in February, 2012.

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