CAT Pension Proposal Triggers Illinois Strike

A management proposal to abolish the defined benefit pension plan for IAM members of Local 851 at Caterpillar Inc., in Joliet, IL was only one reason for the overwhelming 585-37 vote to strike the heavy equipment manufacturer this week. Additional proposals fueling the strike vote included the absence of a cost-of-living formula, increased use of temporary and part-time workers and radical changes to existing contract terms regarding retiree health care benefits and work schedules.

Under Caterpillar’s six-year proposal, health care premiums would double for a single person and pay rates would be frozen for employees hired before May, 2, 2005. Employees hired after May 5, 2005 would be subject to “market-based wage adjustments.”

Caterpillar refused to clarify if this proposal meant that workers’ pay could go up or down, but the result would give managers unprecedented and unilateral ability to establish pay rates.

Meanwhile, pay for Caterpillar Chief Executive Douglas Oberhelman jumped 60 percent in 2011 to $16.9 million while other top executives also received sizable pay increases last year.