1,026 workers at Decatur's Caterpillar plant cut


More layoffs hit Caterpillar employees, including workers in Decatur.

The company announced Friday 2,110 new job cuts as it scales back production to match lower demand in a slowing global economy. That's an 18 percent reduction in production employees.

The world's largest maker of mining and construction machinery says the layoffs will be at three Illinois plants in Aurora, Decatur and East Peoria. Like other large manufacturers, Peoria-based Caterpillar has seen its key markets undercut by weakening sales of large equipment as companies reduce spending.

The latest cuts include:

-1,026 workers in Decatur, where the company makes off-highway trucks and motor graders

-500 workers in Aurora, where Caterpillar makes wheel loaders and hydraulic excavators

-584 workers in East Peoria, where Caterpillar makes track-type tractors and pipelayers

The layoffs add to job cuts announced Monday that totaled 20,000. Earlier this week, Caterpillar cited a global recession in reporting a 32 percent drop in fourth-quarter profit. That announcement comes after the company reported total sales and revenue for 2008 was $51.3 billion.

Cat employees in Decatur received a letter Friday explaining the company needs to make cuts to stay afloat and balance production with demand. Caterpillar representatives say the major cut doesn't mean Decatur's plant will close. The company has high hopes that one day it will have work for many of the employees affected by the notice.

"It's a global recession," said Caterpillar Spokesperson Kate Kenny, "I think anybody who watches the news or reads the paper understands Caterpillar is not alone. I mean, every business is hurting in some way or another. So I think they, just like the rest of us, need to be patient and hopeful. And know that one day everything will be up and running again. And Caterpillar will be here potentially even stronger."

Friday announcement is far from the one Caterpillar made last summer when the company announced a one-billion dollar plan to invest in Illinois. The company says it still plans to make that investment, but it will take longer than it had hoped.

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