PEORIA, Ill. -- Talks between Caterpillar Inc. and the United Automobile Workers broke down yesterday after four days, failing to settle a seven-month strike.
The government's top mediator, John Calhoun Wells, called off negotiations in Louisville, Ky., after the company rejected the union's economic proposal, --ing hopes of a settlement to the manufacturer's longest-running labor dispute.
Peoria, Ill.-based Caterpillar said the company was "misled" into believing that the union would present a proposal that would allow it to better compete with overseas rivals.
The union's offer was "totally unacceptable," said Jerry Brust, director of corporate labor relations. "The union presented a proposal as if we were starting this process three or four years ago."
More than 14,000 union members walked off the job June 21 at Caterpillar plants, protesting what they called unfair labor practices. Caterpillar, the world's largest maker of heavy equipment, contends the walkout is over economic issues.
As many as 9,000 UAW members are still on the picket lines at plants in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Colorado.
Caterpillar wants to break the union's long-standing policy of so-called "pattern bargaining," or reaching one contract with a manufacturer and duplicating that at competitors.
The union later offered to present a package covering noneconomic issues, which Caterpillar agreed to review. The company will not, however, present a counterproposal on the economic issues.