Caterpillar Negotiating to Sell Occupied Scotland Plant
GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) _ A Caterpillar Tractor Co. manager said Friday the company is negotiating to sell its worker-occupied plant in suburban Glasgow to a Scottish company headed by a former chairman of British Steel Corp.
The proposed purchase hinges on Caterpillar reaching an agreement with its workers to end their occupation of the tractor plant, located in the southern suburb of Uddingston.
The workforce is to vote Sunday on whether to accept an agreement to end the occupation. The agreement was reached between the workers and management Thursday night.
Sir Monty Finniston, former chairman of the state-owned British Steel, said he was heading MPAT Holdings, the company which is finalizing negotiations to buy the plant.
″We are pleased to confirm Sir Monty’s statement. We look forward to the positive conclusion of these talks,″ said Ken Robinson, the Caterpillar plant manager here.
MPAT said in a statement late Friday negotiations were still ″at a very delicate stage and by no means finalized.″ But the company said it hoped to take temporarily rent-free occupation of part of the plant on May 1 to start immediate production to meet existing orders.
The occupation by 800 employees began Jan. 14 after the Peoria, Ill.-based company announced it planned to close the plant, laying off the entire workforce of 1,200.
The employees occupied the plant in an effort to keep it open until a buyer could be found to save the jobs there.
An unidentified source told Britain’s domestic news agency, Press Association, that the new owner would employ around 400 of the current workers.
Finniston did not disclose the purchase price but said the new company would buy some of the machinery in the plant and that the vehicles to be produced there would not compete with Caterpillar’s products.
He said the plant would make vehicles that would have civil and military uses, would move on tracks or wheels, and would be able to cross difficult terrain.
Finniston said the new company would build up production at the plant as Caterpillar winds down its operation, which is expected to shut down by the end of the year.
Union leaders are recommending acceptance of the agreement. If it is approved, work could start again on Monday.
In March, Caterpillar won a court eviction order against the workers occupying the plant but the multinational company has not acted to regain physical possession of the factory. The sit-in workers said they would not use force to resist eviction.