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Caterpillar workers to vote on tentative labor agreement – union

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Caterpillar logo is pictured at the ‘Bauma’ Trade Fair for Construction Machinery, Building Material Machines, Mining Machines, Construction Vehicles and Construction Equipment in Munich, Germany, April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/File Pho

By Bianca Flowers

(Reuters) – Caterpillar Inc (NYSE:) workers are scheduled to vote on a tentative agreement with the construction and mining equipment maker on March 12, the United Auto Workers union told members on Thursday in a notice seen by Reuters.

The company said on Wednesday it had reached a six-year agreement with UAW members, warding off a strike at three central Illinois manufacturing facilities and a parts and distribution center in York, Pennsylvania.

Caterpillar outlined guaranteed wage increases and changes to parental leave and retirement benefits in the agreement, pending a ratification vote by employees.

The current agreement, which had been temporarily extended, lapsed at midnight on March 1.

Under the new contract, employees would receive a $6,000 bonus upon ratification. The company also detailed 27% combined wage increases and lump sums over the six-year period, and a bump in employer contributions to retirement plans.

Healthcare premiums were left unchanged. Workers have said the deal does not make up for years of wage freezes that have been absorbed by higher healthcare costs.

“What is already known about the terms of the UAW-Caterpillar deal indicates that it is another slap in the face and deserving of an overwhelming rejection,” a committee of Caterpillar union workers said in a statement.

Caterpillar, which has been struggling with margin pressures as input costs keep rising, has more than 100,000 employees around the world. The contract covers about 7,000 employees.

The Irving, Texas-based company detailed a contingency plan on its website, saying it would operate facilities with management and contract workers if full-time employees were to strike. Manufacturing employers face a tight labor market, and workers at Caterpillar rivals Deere (NYSE:) & Co and CNH Industrial (NYSE:) NV have gone on strike in recent years.

“I’m sure CAT wants to avoid any extended strike similar to what (Deere) went through,” said Mark Grywacheski, a partner at Quad Cities Investment Group, LLC. 

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