BRIDGETON, Mo. — Negotiators for Caterpillar Inc. and the United Auto Workers reached a tentative agreement on a new contract for 17,000 workers Friday, ending 30 consecutive hours of bargaining.
It is the first time since 1976 that the company and the union have reached an agreement without a strike, said James Ward, a Caterpillar vice president and the company's chief negotiator.
"This is an agreement which is innovative in some very important areas of job training and in the job placement process, which gives added protection to senior employees for job retention," Ward said.
Bill Casstevens, chief negotiator for the union, said that the results made the grueling bargaining session worthwhile.
"We disagreed, but we found a way to do it without being disagreeable," he said. "It's been long and arduous and somewhat innovative as well."
Neither Casstevens nor Ward would disclose specific details of the settlement, which they said would be presented to union members Tuesday for a ratification vote.
The UAW opened the talks by saying job security and increased wages, benefits and influence on the company's board of directors were its top priorities. The company said its goal was cutting costs to remain competitive.
Local contracts between Caterpillar and union groups in Peoria, Ill., and Decatur, Ill., still must be agreed to, but negotiators said they expected the details to be ironed out before the ratification vote on the main contract.
Caterpillar's current contract with the UAW had been scheduled to expire on June 1, but it was extended until June 27. The deadline then was extended to midnight Thursday. The last contract negotiations, in 1982, involved a seven-month strike.
Caterpillar, based in Peoria, manufactures heavy-construction equipment. It has operations in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Iowa and Colorado.