PROTESTERS are targeting Caterpillar's factories and Finning dealer outlets around the UK as pro-Palestinian groups step up their campaign against the manufacturer throughout Europe and the US.
A coalition of groups, under the name the Stop Cat Coalition, are protesting against the use of Caterpillar machinery by the Israeli army. It has promised to continue a mixture of leafleting, demonstrations and direct action at Cat and Finning sites.
The campaign first came to the attention of the UK construction industry when protesters staged a sit in in a loader bucket on Finning's stand at the Hillhead exhibition last year.
The campaigners say that Cat equipment has been used to destroy 9,000 homes on the Gaza Strip, making 50,000 people homeless, and has been used to build the 'Security Fence'.
In recent weeks, Caterpillar Financial Services'office in Solihull and the Peterlee truck factory have been targeted, while Cat's European headquarters at Geneva was the subject of a 'sit-in' by Swiss protesters.
In the most visible demonstration, a dozen protesters from the Tyneside branch of the SCC chained themselves to railings and climbed onto equipment outside the factory in Peterlee.
The moves follow Cat's annual general meeting in the US in April, where campaigners tried to table a resolution forcing the company to determine whether their sale of bulldozers to Israel was consistent with its social responsibility rules.The proposal was defeated.
The manufacturer said: 'Caterpillar shares the world's concern over unrest in the Middle East and we certainly have compassion for all those affected by the political strife.
'More than two million Caterpillar machines and engines are at work across the world each day.We have neither the legal right nor the means to police individual use.'
But Cat has come under growing pressure from higher-profile groups to change policy. Last month Amnesty International called on the firm to 'take measures, within the company sphere of influence to guarantee that its bulldozers are not used to commit human rights violations including the destruction of homes, land and other properties'