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The chief of the Canadian Auto Workers union has again urged American heavy-equipment giant Caterpillar to end the lockout at its locomotive plant in London, Ont., and return to the bargaining table.

Ken Lewenza's call came as thousands of union and community members prepared to gather in London's Victoria Park today for a mass rally.

They will be demanding an end to the three-week lockout of nearly 500 workers at Caterpillar's Electro-Motive plant.

The workers were locked out after they rejected a contract offer that would have cut wages in half and slashed benefits at a time Caterpillar is reporting record profits.

Mr. Lewenza says it's time for the management to get back to the bargaining table and negotiate "a fair and equitable" contract.

He also called on the federal government to "stand up for Canadian jobs."