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Union Complains Over CAT Smoking Ban

United Auto Workers filed an unfair labor practice charge against Caterpillar over a smoking ban, claiming the ban goes against guarantees in the UAW contract.

EAST PEORIA, Illinois (AP) -- The United Auto Workers union filed an unfair labor practice charge against Caterpillar Inc. over a smoking ban that goes into effect at all of its U.S. properties on Sunday.

The union claims the ban goes against guarantees in the UAW contract, and that such a policy shift is subject to collective bargaining.

The union says smoking has been a contractual privilege for 60 years.

Caterpillar, however, said it was time to end smoking at work.

''It would be unfortunate and disappointing if some employees decide to strike over the company's decision to prohibit smoking on Caterpillar campuses,'' said spokesman Dan Day, in a prepared statement.

''Caterpillar cares about the health of its employees and wants to ensure that everyone who works on or visits Caterpillar property has access to the healthiest and safest work environment possible.

''Employees represented by the United Auto Workers who are unhappy with this policy have initiated the grievance procedure. We are cooperating with the UAW to address those grievances in the manner previously agreed to for such disputes.''

Union bargaining chairman Bill Scott says the UAW is not encouraging any work stoppage over the issue. He noted the union and Caterpillar have a ''no strike, no lockout'' clause in their contract.

Caterpillar announced that it would forbid smoking on its properties late last year after Illinois, where the heavy equipment maker is based, passed a law that prohibited smoking in the work place and elsewhere.

The union filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board this month.

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