METAMORA — The man who represented Caterpillar Inc. during the company’s contentious union negotiations of the 1990s died March 5.Wayne Zimmerman of rural Metamora died at the age of 77. He worked at Caterpillar for 44 years before retiring in 1998, serving as the company’s vice president for human services and point man in negotiations with the United Auto Workers during a period marked by intense labor unrest.The UAW went on strike for five months in 1992 and for 17 months in the 1994-95 period. Union members at Caterpillar worked without a contract from 1991 through 1998, when workers OK’d a six-year deal.Zimmerman, who retired days after the 1998 contract was signed, told the Journal Star that year that he didn’t believe the dispute — which included the two strikes, several brief walkouts and hundreds of unfair labor practice charges — taught the company anything.“We learn something every day, of course, but I don’t think this dispute caused us to learn anything. We learned maybe to run the company better since we restructured the business, but that really had nothing to do with the labor dispute,” he said in the 1998 interview.But Zimmerman did say the experiences gained might prevent prolonged disputes in the future. “We’ve got six years to make sure nothing like this happens again,” he told the Journal Star.Scott Davis, president of Pekin National Bank, where Zimmerman served as a member of the board, recalled knowing “a champ.”“He was on our board for 22 years — right up until his death. Wayne’s wisdom and guidance will be sorely missed. He was rock solid,” Davis said.A 1953 graduate of Pekin Community High School, Zimmerman served in the U.S. Army from 1955 to 1958.He started as a sweeper at one of the Caterpillar’s East Peoria plants before entering the firm’s machinist apprentice training program. He served in a number of positions with Caterpillar, living in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Scotland.