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Union questions Caterpillar's motive for laying off up to 300 employees


MILWAUKEE (WTAQ) - Union officials are questioning Caterpillar’s decision to lay off up to 300 employees at its mining equipment plants in the Milwaukee area.

That’s after the company’s CEO said the firm needs more visas to employ foreign engineers – and a path to a legal status for workers who are in the country illegally.

Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman told a business convention in Chicago that employers have trouble filing highly-skilled jobs like engineers and scientists – as well as many lower-skilled positions. But Caterpillar’s unions in the Milwaukee area question that claim, after the firm said last week it would lay off up to 40 percent of its blue collar mining equipment makers because sales of that equipment have slowed.

The union noted that the layoff announcement came just before negotiations were beginning on a new labor contract.

Caterpillar spokesman Rusty Dunn said the layoffs are a separate issue from the need the get more highly-skilled employees. Dunn said there would always be ups and downs in business, and actions will have to be taken to address those trends.