Caterpillar workers protest company's investors

Unite: Big city investors can’t wash their hands of Caterpillar’s mistreatment of Northern Ireland workers

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Unite has brought Caterpillar workers’ campaign to London offices of Vanguard, Blackrock and State Street, who hold more than a fifth of Caterpillar’s stock.

Unite said that Caterpillar’s pay cut and compulsory overtime for Northern Ireland workers has made a total mockery of ethical claims.

The general secretary of the UK’s leading union Sharon Graham has warned big City investors that they cannot ‘wash their hands’ of Caterpillar’s mistreatment of workers in Northern Ireland.

The call came after Unite took the first in a series of protests targeting Caterpillar’s investors to Blackrock, Vanguard, and State Street in London, who between them hold more than 20 percent of Caterpillar’s total shares.

According to Unite, the investment houses are the major beneficiaries of Caterpillar’s largesse to its shareholders. In the last year the company has paid out dividends and share buybacks to it’s shareholders worth £4 billion – out of a total profit of £5.6 billion.

Unite members are now into a third month of strikes at sites in Larne and Springvale, Belfast having rejected the Caterpillar’s two-year pay proposal, which the union says is a real terms pay cut of three percent. On top the company wants to introduce compulsory overtime.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Caterpillar is making a total mockery of these investors’ claims to support ethical businesses.

“Caterpillar has sent billions of pounds their way via dividends and share buy backs,” she added. “Yet Caterpillar insists on a pay cut for its workers while demanding they be at their beck and call for compulsory overtime.

“Caterpillar’s big City investors cannot wash their hands of how this company is mistreating these workers,” Graham continued. “Our protests will continue until they stand by their fine words with concrete action.  And this strike will continue, with the full support of Unite, until Caterpillar behaves with decency towards this workforce.”

Vanguard owns 8.6 percent of Caterpillar, State Street 7.6 percent and Blackrock 4.5 percent – which makes them the largest institutional investors in the company – holding more than 20 percent of the company’s total shares.

Unite is challenging the investors to stand by their collective commitment to ‘Environmental, Social and Governance’(ESG) policies which are meant to insure investment only goes to businesses which have high ethical standards.

Regional officer for the workforce, George Brash added, “These investors make a big play of their ESG commitments as some kind of justification for the huge profits they reap – indeed Blackrock is said to have pioneered them globally – but the reality for workers is that they are viewed as exploitable.

“These investors in their big offices are the beneficiaries of profit made on the back of workers and industrial policies which seek to undermine the living standards of workers people everywhere. Only our members are not having it. It is only right that they should be called out on it.”

By Donal O’Cofaigh

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