Caterpillar lays off local workers

CLAYTON "Caterpillar today has notified employees in its Building Construction Products Division of temporary layoffs at its facilities in Clayton and Sanford, North Carolina. These decisions have been made in response to reduced demand for the products made at those facilities. In addition, Caterpillar is planning additional non-production days in Clayton and Sanford in 2009. We have communicated these decisions to our employees and suppliers," said Caterpillar in a statement released to the media.

Eyewitness News reporter Tim Nelson spoke with the wife of a longtime Caterpillar employee who has worked for the company more than 10 years. She said her husband was told the company will pay him $100 a week for 26 weeks. The employee - and many others - did not want to be identified for fear of jeopardizing their ability to be rehired months from now.

The news was hard for Clayton leaders like Mayor Jody McLeod.

“Caterpillar means an awful lot to Clayton. They’ve been a fantastic corporate neighbor,” he said. “It’s the kind of company that every town and city across the state would love to have.”

McLeod says news of the layoffs caught him by surprise because he had no prior notification from the company.

“It’s really difficult this time of year when people are getting a pink slip just before Christmas because that has the trickle-down effect in the economy. So these people that have lost their jobs with Caterpillar will not have the income that they had, will not be shopping downtown, and they won’t be eating at the local restaurants, it really impacts everybody,” he offered.

He worries about people finding work to replace the income they've lost.

"At this point it doesn’t matter how well-educated you are, because it doesn’t matter if you have just high school diploma or if you have PHD, the job market is very tough.”

Caterpillar says it'll do what it can.

"Caterpillar will offer job training assistance and other benefits to the laid off employees to assist them during this difficult time. We regret the need to take these steps, and we understand this will cause disruptions in the lives of employees and their families. During these uncertain times we must take steps to position Caterpillar for long-term success," it said in a statement.

McLeod says he hopes the state and federal government will get moving on restarting the economy.

“I think if there’s a message to send to the Governor-Elect or the President-Elect, it’s that, 'Hey, you know, what about bailing out real, everyday people? What’s happening to support us?'" he offered.

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