Caterpillar wields axe on Tassie mining department

Caterpillar’s Tasmanian base at Burnie, in the state’s northwest, is home to the production of the company’s underground mining machines used around the world.The redundancies include 220 production employees and 60 support employees.The employees will leave the company by May 1. Caterpillar said it regretted the action was necessary, but it was ultimately in the long-term interests of the business.Shane Littler from the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union told CIN’s sister publication MiningNews.net that voluntary redundancy letters were handed out to Burnie employees this week.Littler said Caterpillar hopes 180 workers will take up the voluntary redundancy package, but so far only 30 workers have accepted the offer.He explained that in normal circumstances voluntary redundancies are a good option for employees, but said given the current economic crisis there may not be alternative jobs for the workers.Employees have until next Thursday to apply for a package.“One of the concerns that we have is that some of the apprentices will be in the mix of the 280 made redundant,” Littler said. “And if they are to go, well then it’s going to be difficult for them to pick up and continue their apprenticeship with a host employee in the current economic downturn.”Littler said other major consequences of Caterpillar’s actions would be the flow-on effect to small businesses in Burnie, as well as Australia-wide engineering firms.“There are many small businesses in Burnie that might not survive without Caterpillar running at full strength,” he said.“The concern is that Caterpillar will continue to reduce its workforce here and start to head offshore.”Premier David Bartlett made a statement saying the government funding for the construction and agribusiness sectors will hopefully provide new employment opportunities for the dismissed Caterpillar workers.”We’re going to do everything we can to keep the economy strong in other sectors to ensure displaced workers have the ability to get another job,” he said.

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