Caterpillar, which is based on the Sanders Lodge industrial estate, Rushden, has entered talks with staff with a view to moving its entire manufacturing base to three new locations. Work currently based in Rushden would be managed across the company's three European facilities in Shrewsbury, at Chaumont in France and at Radom in Poland. The 103 workers based at Rushden were given the news at a meeting yesterday and have now entered a 90-day consultation period. The job losses would affect 15 office staff and managers and 88 people on the factory floor. A spokesman for the firm, which took over the business from Wealdstone Engineering in 1994, said the news would come as a blow to Rushden but alternative placements may be offered to workers facing redundancy. He said: "As part of the proposals, the business would offer support in addition to relocation assistance to those employees interested in pursuing employment at other Caterpillar facilities in the region. "The nearest plants are in Peterborough and Leicester." Workers at the plant remanufacture car gas and diesel engines, transmissions and components for the European car market. The decision to close is part of an extensive European remanufacturing strategy review and comes after several years of cost reduction activity, business improvement plans and operational planning at the Rushden site. European operations manager with responsibility for remanufacturing Chris Russell said: "The business sincerely regrets the impact this will have on its Rushden employees and the surrounding community. "But after thoroughly reviewing the options, we believe this proposal positions the remanufacturing business in Europe for long-term success and sustained profitability. "At this stage, we are open to every possible alternative to closure if it can be demonstrated as a more sustainable and profitable alternative." He said the business started talks with Rushden's employee liaison committee yesterday. Rushden Town Council leader Colin Wright said: "This is very disappointing and sad news and I am sorry for the workers there. "Sadly we have ceased to become a manufacturing country and this business seems to have fallen prey to that." The firm employs more than 12,000 people in this county, across 17 different locations. The plant in Rushden was originally opened in 1965.

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