The Canadian Auto Workers and Caterpillar Inc. are negotiating a severance package for the nearly 500 unionized Electro-Motive employees who are out of work, with the union threatening a plant occupation as a 'last resort.'

The locomotive plant in London, Ont., closed permanently Feb. 3 after the company and union couldn't come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Negotiations started Tuesday in the wake of the union's threat to occupy the closed plant until their demands are met.

Union national president Ken Lewenza said his members are looking for more than the legal minimum when it comes to a severance package. It they don't get it, members have threatened they will occupy the plant and prevent Caterpillar from removing several locomotives inside.

'We want our members to be taken care of.' — CAW president Ken Lewenza

"Now, the occupy idea is an absolute last resort. We want to get a collective agreement. We want to get a fair agreement. We want Caterpillar to get on with their lives. But at the end of the day, we want our members to be taken care of," Lewenza said.

According to Ontario's employment laws, workers with less than five years of service would receive no severance. Employees with more than five years experience would received one week's pay for every year worked. The maximum amount of severance pay required to be paid under the Employment Standards Act is 26 weeks.

Lewenza said that if his members were asked to vote on whether to occupy the plant, they would say, 'Yes, go ahead. Let's occupy this.'