Posted Sep 2, 2016 at 10:40 AM Updated Sep 2, 2016 at 6:36 PMBy Matt Buedel
Journal Star Caterpillar/industry reporter
MOSSVILLE — Hundreds of mostly office employees received layoff notices at one of the largest Caterpillar Inc. facilities in the Peoria area this week, just as the company announced plans to close overseas production plants and eliminate thousands more positions.
A total of 300 support and management employees at Building AC and the Tech Center in Mossville this week received job loss notifications that included severance packages, 60 days notice and mandated Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act letters.
The WARN Act letters are required under certain conditions, including plant closures and mass layoffs of at least 250 people, and must be filed with agencies such as the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
"We issued out WARN letters to the appropriate agencies and employees," Caterpillar spokeswoman Rachel Potts said Friday. "The letter does not reflect other reductions at our facilities in the area."
The company did not disclose the number of layoffs this week at other locations in the region. The layoffs generally take effect by Oct. 31, and Caterpillar announced it would work to place some of those employees in new positions within the company while helping others find work elsewhere.
Illinois WARN ActThe Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, signed into law on Aug. 15, 2004, requires employers to provide 60 days advance notice of pending plant closures or mass layoffs.
The law applies to "business enterprises" with 75 or more employees (excluding part-time employees). The Illinois WARN Law also defines notice-triggering events differently than federal WARN.
A covered "mass layoff" under Illinois WARN is a reduction in force at a single site of employment that is not the result of a "plant closing" and results in employment losses during any 30-day period (or, in some cases, during any 90-day period) for at least 33 percent of the employees and at least 25 employees, or at least 250 employees regardless of the percentage.
Source: Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity
In its initial confirmation of the layoffs Monday, the company reiterated its commitment to Peoria, where it has been headquartered for 91 years, and the surrounding area.
The layoffs initiated in Mossville and other facilities in the Peoria area this week largely consisted of engineers working in divisions that Caterpillar announced last month would be consolidated, resulting in significant work force reductions beyond the 10,000 job cuts announced last fall as part of a company-wide restructuring.
Those plans also resulted in the announcement of thousands of intended job cuts overseas by the end of the week — in Northern Ireland and Belgium.
The company on Thursday announced its intention to restructure operations in Northern Ireland, possibly resulting in the reduction of 200 to 250 production, support and management positions over the course of one to two years.
That plan includes the possible closure of a facility in Monkstown and consolidation of logistics in Larne and Springvale. Caterpillar additionally announced the consideration of discontinuing production of 25-ton and larger material handlers in Northern Ireland, including the planned launch of large material handlers for Europe.
“We recognize that what we are considering is difficult for our employees, their families and the communities where they live and work," said Tom Frake, Caterpillar vice president with responsibilities for Global Power Solutions. "Despite these contemplated actions, we remain committed to Northern Ireland. In fact, these potential changes would make us more efficient and competitive over the longer term as we adapt to the weak market conditions."
One day after the Northern Ireland announcement, Caterpillar revealed its intentions to shift production of some construction equipment from Belgium to France and other locations outside Europe, resulting in about 2,000 layoffs.
That plan would move production from Gosselies, Belgium, to Grenoble, France, and elsewhere — and possibly include shifting component production to unidentified external suppliers and other Caterpillar facilities.
“We have to contemplate actions to reduce manufacturing capacity and take operating costs out of our business to align with lower demand," said Tom Pellette, group president with responsibility for Construction Industries. "Should the intention be confirmed, we will support the local leadership in order to mitigate the impact on our employees, their families and the communities where we’re located."