Caterpillar axes more jobs at Burnie plant

Mining equipment manufacturer Caterpillar has cut about 100 jobs at Burnie in Tasmania.

Caterpillar Underground Mining says affected workers include boiler makers, welders and other metal workers.

Before Christmas the company laid off about 40 labour hire workers and the latest job cuts will reduce the workforce to around 500 people, the ABC reported.

John Short from the Manufacturing Workers Union says it is a worrying sign.

"They've just had a plant built in Thailand, which is a bigger plant than the one here in Burnie.

"And so we need to ask the question, what are the long-term plans," Short said.

The company's managing director Dan Barich is assuring workers there are no plans to move the Burnie business operations offshore.

"It is not our intention now, or am I aware of any plans in the future to move the Burnie operations out of Australia.
"That is just not the case, in fact, my goal is to do quite the opposite," he said.

Barich attributed the latest job cuts to a global slump in the manufacturing sector.

"Being part of a shrinking business or economy is not any fun.

"These are hard things to do that we do primarily to make sure that we remain competitive, that we can keep our costs down and make sure we are providing the best quality equipment," Barich said.

The announcement comes as the heavy equipment maker failed to impress analysts with its 2012 profit, after accounting fraud and writedowns hit its bottom line.

While the company posted a 15 per cent rise in 2012 net profit, the result was below market expectations, with revenue falling 6.8 per cent to $15.44 billion.

The company also closed out 2012 poorly, with fourth quarter net profit down to $669 million compared with $1.5 billion at the same time last year.

“Considering the weak economy in the United States, along with much of Europe in recession and China slowing, we had a solid year," Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman said at the time in a statement.

“Our incremental profit pull-through was very good, we made progress adjusting inventory levels and our quality and safety indicators continued to improve.”

Earlier this year company officials said Caterpillar had reduced its inventory by slowing production rather than selling at a discounted rate, and while some economic indicators were improving the outlook for 2013 was clouded by uncertainty.

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