2,000 jobs to go as Caterpillar closes Belgian plant

In a sign of a weakening global economy, machinery maker Caterpillar this week told Belgian authorities it would proceed with its plan to shut down its factory at Gosselies, leading to the loss of 2,000 jobs.

Production will be phased out until complete cessation of operations in mid-2017, and there are plans to sell the site for one euro to a regional investment company.

The world’s biggest heavy equipment maker, Caterpillar said in September 2016 it was contemplating shutting the Belgian plant, and started a consultation required by law. Angered by the news at that time, around 60 workers commandeered cranes and used them to block the site’s entrance.

Heavy equipment makers like Caterpillar are seen as economic bellwethers, since sales of big machines for mining and construction can signal the start of investment plans.

Citing "weak economic conditions around much of the world", Caterpillar in January reported a $2 per share loss in the fourth quarter of 2016, and full year sales and revenues in 2016 down 18% on 2015.

Announcing its final decision this week on 27 March, Caterpillar said it and the Region of Wallonia have reached an agreement in principle to sell the Gosselies site to regional investment company Sogepa for a symbolic euro, to be effective on 30 June 2018.

Image: Heavy equipment makers are seen as economic bellwethers, since sales can signal the start of investment plans (Caterpillar)

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