Caterpillar may close its Joliet plant by June.
The company’s latest layoff notice with the state reports that 285 workers at the factory will lose their jobs from Jan. 2 through June 30 because of the plant closing.
Caterpillar would not confirm when the plant is closing.
A Caterpillar spokeswoman would not specify when the company plans to close the plant or how many people still work there.
“As previously communicated, Caterpillar intends to transition manufacturing currently performed in Joliet to other Caterpillar factories,” spokeswoman Kate Young said in a written statement. “We have reached an agreement with the IAM (International Association of Machinists) to extend the current Joliet contract into 2019 to complete the work at the facility so we can meet customer needs.”
A representative with the Machinists union could not be reached Thursday for comment.
State Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, however, said the Machinists contract only was extended through March.
“From what the union knows, they must expect all the bargaining positions to have been laid off or moved out by March 2019,” McGuire said.
Machinists have operated the production lines at the plant, although Caterpillar has brought in non-union contractors as well.
Caterpillar opened the plant in 1951 making parts for its tractors and construction equipment.
The status of the Joliet plant has been a guessing game since at least 2015, when Caterpillar announced it was considering moving all production lines to factories in Mexico and turning the local facility into a distribution center. At the time, Caterpillar had 660 Joliet employees but has laid off workers while moving production to Mexico.
Caterpillar at one time was one of the biggest employers if not the largest in the Joliet area.
“The information we have here is that the peak employment out there was 8,300 people,” said John Greuling, CEO with the Will County Center for Economic Development. “I think they hit that a few times at the plant.”