Archive for the ‘CAW’ Category

Ford to CAW: WE Want Pattern Bargaining

July 8th, 2009

Now that Ford has told the Canadian Autoworkers Union they want the same concessions bankrupt GM and Chrysler got, what choice does the CAW have? From day one their motto has been the same deal for all. It’s called pattern bargaining, and they insist it’s necessary for a variety of reasons, one of which is to not provide a competitive advantage to any one company.

ford-mustang-shelby-cobra-gt500kr_fs1“Wait,” I hear Ford workers saying. “Ford didn’t go bankrupt; Ford didn’t take government money; Ford is doing just fine, why should we give concessions?”

The answer: pattern bargaining. It works on the way up, and it works on the way down. Chrysler and GM weren’t good enough at doing business to survive with that contract, so why should Ford have to?

Thus, Ford Motor Company will get their wish, they will recieve the same concessions that the other companies got, and Ford’s workers will be pressured and threatened and cajoled into accepting those concessions, because that’s what’s good for Chrysler and GM employees.

Auto Industry, CAW, I Love My Job , , , , , , ,

There’s Nothing Worse…

April 27th, 2009
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A CAW workers voice of insanity.

April 22nd, 2009

Paulsstuff wrote A CAW workers voice of reason last Friday and has an interwebs hit on his hands, his post going so far as to being quoted in the National Post. Good on you Paul my friend, you done good. And frankly, you make a lot of excellent points that I have little disagreement with. (side note to Paulsstuff: my spidey sense says you work at the Brampton plant, as I do. Say hey to me sometime). So why do I disagree with him on the general premise? There are a lot of people asking us Chrysler workers to take one for the team, not one of whom has any, to borrow a Presidential phrase, skin in the game.

Just over ten years ago, successful, profitable Chrysler had a bankroll that was rumoured to be close to $10B. This was money that properly belonged to the stockholders, who had forfeited dividends to create a cushion, they were told, for the next time there is a downturn in the industry.  That downturn came in early 2000, and the money was gone.  Somehow, the money made it’s way back to Germany, somehow, Chrysler had no money. Daimler, it could be well argued, profited nicely from the “merger of equals.”

In 2007, Cerberus capital picked up 80% of Chrysler, as well as Chrysler financial. They also own GMAC, GMs financing arm. The extremely profitable Cerberus, has refused to put any of it’s assets into helping Chrysler, deeming it bad investment. That’s a problem, but here’s worse. The financial arm of Chrysler and GM, both Cerberus owned, heavily tightened rules regarding leasing. People buying cars these days report they can’t get financing through Chrysler credit: off to the banks they must go. So the ownership of Cerberus won’t invest in Chrysler, the financial arm of Chrysler, owned by Cerberus won’t loan people money to buy cars. And finally, Chrysler Financial won’t be taking $750M in federal bailout money, it is reported, because executives don’t want limits on their pay.

These are the people I am supposed to take a pay cut to help?

A new player on the scene is Fiat. Here’s their idea: they pay $0.00, they assume debt equalling $0.00 and they get 20% equity in Chrysler. The condition, I have to take a pay cut. In short, Fiat will take the 20% with no risk only if I, and my fellow workers, buy it for them.

Finally, there is Industry Minister Tony Clements, whose riding is Brampton and, I hope, everybody who lives in his riding and works at Chrysler remembers when their jobs were on the line, he went to bat against them. Clements has tax money aplenty, my and your tax money, and he’s willing to throw it away, if I take a pay cut.  This government may think they are having a good laugh, screwing the union now that they have a chance, but as I have pointed out before, the union may vote for Jack Layton and Paul Martin, but many of the workers vote Conservative – I well remember Clements old boss Mike Harris being at the plant and a line-up of people to meet him, all wanting to let him know they support him, even if their leadership says otherwise.

To Paulsstuffs specific points, I have little quibble. If they want to ditch the legal plan, tuition coverage, various secondary health benefits, have at it. But does anybody believe what ails Chrysler is too much orthodontics? Paying my legal fees when I move every ten plus years? I argued two years ago the extreme mis-management case, and I stand by it.

However, one point I’ll disagree with Paulsstuff: two tier wages. It’s not that I don’t see the seduction of this, and furthermore, it’s not the supposed to be the unions job to save the company from itself. But since that’s what these talks are about, saving the company from itself, it apparently now is the unions job. But you see, two tier wages will just make everything worse.

Remember that extreme mis-management I was talking about. Here’s an example: everybody, but everybody, agrees the biggest problem is “legacy costs,” ie. pensions and benefits paid to retired workers. Last year, when the UAW decided to give two tiered wages, what was the result? The companies threw over $100,000 buyouts on the table for older workers to leave, many of whom retired to the legacy cost side of the ledger.  They filled their jobs with younger cheaper workers, but put guys in pensions who wouldn’t otherwise be in pensions, and might not be for years.  They lowered operating costs, they added legacy costs.

I have a hard time accepting that I have to do more for less (after 20 years, my holiday time is decreasing by anywhere from one to three weeks) when the people asking for sacrifice have so little real stake in the company.  Lots of people who stand to benefit if the miracle happens, but the only people with any money at stake seems to be the workers (and suppliers, of course).  And if I thought it wasn’t just prolonging the agony, I might fall in line anyway. But this parrot is dead, and all anyone is realling asking the workers to do is nail it’s feet to the perch. Paul, if they can’t make a go of it with GMs deal, after three other round of concessions in the past three years, then they can’t make a go of it. Perhaps it’s time to let Chrysler run down the curtain and join the bleedin’ choir invisible.

Auto Industry, CAW , , , , , , , , , , ,

Autoworkers Did not Cause This Crisis…

April 2nd, 2009

Greedy speculators caused this crisis.

From an open letter to CAW Members:

CHRYSLERUNVEILING7.jpgThere have been incredible attacks on autoworkers in recent months, and those attacks are going to get worse – from anti-union politicians, from anti-union auto analysts, from the anti-union media. We reject those attacks. Autoworkers did not cause this crisis. Greedy speculators caused this crisis.

Memo to Ken Lewenza. Unions in this country are the worst group for attacking others, blaming everyone else for their own problems. If you don’t want to be attacked, then don’t attack other groups.

If you really must, however, at least wait until a new paragraph.

CAW , , , , , , ,

CAW Picketing Bauer Industries

February 23rd, 2009

Bauer Industries in Waterloo closed their doors on Feb 13, telling their employees that day. Pay for their last week of work has not been issued, nor have they received their record of employment allowing them to apply for EI.

Some times on this blog I have been hard on the CAW, but I have no truck with the argument they don’t serve a purpose. These guys at Bauer went to work every day, did their jobs, and got caught in unfortunate circumstances.  As Bruce Springsteen sang “…these jobs are going boys And they ain’t coming back…” A days work for a days pay is an agreement, and the company should be paying. If they cannot, they should at least be working with the employees to make the closure as painless as possible, and that means getting those records of employment in the employees hands ASAP, so they can apply for EI, and begin the process of moving on with their lives.


GM Doesn’t Need Our Stinking Money

January 24th, 2009

GM has said they don’t want, nor need, Canada’s short term loans, for now:

General Motors Corp.’s Canadian arm says it may not use $3-billion in emergency aid pledged by the Ontario and federal governments several more months, stating it is focused instead on long-term restructuring talks to ensure it keeps operating.

It seems innocuous enough, but other media are reporting this story as GM has refused Ottawa’s money:

General Motors of Canada has turned down an offer by the federal and Ontario governments of emergency short-term aid, a move that has stunned some analysts and left negotiations on a highly touted auto bailout in limbo.

Count this analyst along with the stunned if this is true.  There are only two reasons to turn down the money. One is that they don’t intend to continue in Canada – perhaps new American money from the new American administration comes with a “no jobs leave America while you have jobs elsewhere,” clause.

The second possible reason is that the CAW is not playing ball refusing all concessions. GM would then not be eligible for the money. However, if that was true I would expect GM to say so, thus putting pressure on the CAW to compromise.

Whatever the reason, one thing is clear. GM wants the flexibility to leave it’s Canadian operations, at least in the short term. A company who wasn’t expected to make it through Christmas doesn’t leave $3B on the table. This one looks like bad news for the Canadian auto industry.

Auto Industry, CAW

The Story of EI and the Auto Industry.

December 16th, 2008

The last few weeks a couple of things have happened. One is that the Parliamentary opposition, including the Michael Ignatieff led Liberals, have screamed for stimulus, in large part to the auto industry. Another is the Supreme Court ruled that the Liberal run Government of Canada of the 2002, 2003 and 2005 illegally rolled Employment Insurance surpluses into general revenues.

The two stories are connected.

Many years ago the unions negotiated a benefit called Supplementary Unemployment Benefit (SUB). It is, in essence, a guaranteed income supplement, that promises the company will top up EI funds to 85% of the workers wage. Back when it was negotiated it meant a small weekly stipend for the company during lean times and they could maintain their work force for good times.

As an example, the first time I wound up on temporary lay-off, EI (or UIC as it was then called) sent me a cheque for something in the $400’s, SUB for less than $100 ($85 I think).

In the 90’s Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government revamped the Unemployment system, making it more expensive, harder to access and with a decrease in benefits. As an example, somebody who collects EI two years in a row must repay 15% the second, and every subsequent year. When announcing the changes to EI, Finance Minister Paul Martin talked about companies using EI to supplement their workforce.

The result is predictable and generally what was desired. If I get laid off now, the EI cheque is still in the $400’s, the SUB cheque for an amount greater than the EI cheque. Furthermore, it didn’t take long for the unions to argue that the 15% claw-back meant the employees were making less than 85%, and the companies began reimbursing it.

The result is that for the auto companies to temporarily lay-off their work force for re-tooling or inventory adjustment, it now costs them somewhere in the neighbourhood, and probably in excess of, 50% of the employees wage.

I don’t present this as evidence for or against the SUB plans. They are a reality in the automotive industry and the companies themselves used the plans to supplement their labour costs when cyclical demand for their product was low. Paul Martin balanced the budget in part by illegally using the Employment Insurance fund as a tax revenue, and he did so partly on the back of the auto companies, who every party now seems to agree need a bailout. When the companies you built policy on ten years ago can get an all party consensus that they need bailed-out a decade on, your legacy takes a hit.

When Stephen Harper sits down to sort out the EI mess that Paul Martin & The Supremes have just handed him, and Jack Layton calls him to ask what he’s doing about the auto jobs, he should look at the changes made to EI that affect the auto companies and consider undoing them.

Auto Industry, CAW

Buzz of Irony

May 26th, 2008

I have been at two events with union speakers the last month. At the first, an in plant celebration of the launch of the new Challenger, Jerry Dias, assistant to Buzz Hargrove and, I’m told, the next CAW President, spent his time at the mike taking pot shots at Jim Flaherty. This was a celebratory function. Everyone else talked about the great car, the great company, the great workers. Jerry Dias whined about someone who wasn’t there. I was standing beside a guy who was the head of one of our locals chapters (i.e. chairperson for one of the companies), and he says to me with a roll of the eyes, “classy guy.”

Ten days later I went to the “hurry up, get the vote in during a long weekend, we only have six months to get this done” ratification vote for a new contract. Local bargaining committee is not even in place yet, but we have one day to decide on the contract. So naturally you would assume it would be an informative meeting: you would assume wrong.

Instead CAW economist (and Globe and Mail columnist) Jim Stanford spends over an hour explaining why we had to sign the contract now: note the difference; not why we should like the contract, but justifying the contract they got. The reason they negotiated early, and got us the contract they did: Evil money traders, Stephen Harper, Jim Flaherty. An hour of cheap political shots, very little real information.

I mention these stories to explain to the wife why there’s cornflakes all over the kitchen. It’s Buzz Hargrove’s fault, honey. You see, after these two events, I thought cheap political points where OK, that’s what we do. Then I open todays Toronto Sun and voila:

Cheap shots at Premier McGuinty are unfair


Oh, grow up Buzz!

So when Bob Runciman and Howard Hampton stand in the legislature and question giving money to a company who is laying off a few thousand Ontarians, it’s a cheap shot, and unfair to boot (unfair, by the way, is the official whine of the CAW).

On the other hand, attending a corporate celebration, or an unrelated contract ratification meeting, political thoughts are fair game. But doing so in the legislature, not so fair. Or rather, poking Conservatives in the eye, with other peoples money, is fine. Poking Liberals is cause for another bottle to go with the glazed chicken in truffle sauce.

One thing is becoming clear, I was right three months ago, Buzz is running in the next election, and auto-workers got sold down the river to accommodate that ambition.


Update: Progressive blogger Mack the Hackistan (i.e. Kevin Wilson) has written a piece for Now Magazine Blowing off Buzz.

Auto Industry, CAW, I Love My Job, Wasted Away Again in Buzzistan

Resign Now! This Union Member Tells Buzz

March 26th, 2008

If there is any truth to the rumour Buzz Hargrove is running for the next federal Parliament, he should resign as head of the CAW immediately!

The CAW is currently beginning the process of negotiating a new contract for it’s members at the Big 3 auto plants. It is going to be a fractious negotiations, with the Big 3 demanding wage concessions, including possibly two tier wages as announced last year in the UAW agreement. I can tell you from the shop floor, workers are expecting an ugly fall. So as this process begins members have every right to expect the person leading the union will be fully committed to the process. It appears, however, that Hargrove is fully committed to something else:

Ottawa is abuzz with rumours that the CAW’s Buzz Hargrove will run for the Liberals in the next federal election.. and he plans to take on a big fish….

Rumour has it that Buzz Hargrove will run in Toronto, against NDP Leader, Jack Layton…

If that’s Hargrove’s plan, fine. But CAW members need him on the job at this critical moment, not eyeing the next job. He can re-pay the members for all the free advertising the CAW has given the Liberal party in the past couple of years, then resign immediately.

As Hargrove himself admits that a strike is possible this fall (and many would say likely), and many observers believe likewise that an election is possible this fall, it beehooves Hargrove to come clean before negotiations begin. I for one don’t want to be on strike and having the union’s leader resign for his next job in the middle of the strike. Nor do I want to be on strike to prove how tough the next Liberal candidate for Toronto-Danforth is. Finally, as a member in good standing in the CAW, I don’t want to be paying for advertising, positive or negative, for Hargrove’s political campaign.

So Buzz, to put it in language you union guys understand: I demand you agree, in writing, to finish your current term as President of the CAW, or resign immediately.

CAW, Wasted Away Again in Buzzistan

Auto Industry Bloodbath Continues

February 12th, 2008

The damage locally her in Waterloo Region is drastic. Two weeks ago it was Ledco closing it’s doors (here, here and here), now it looks as though Martinrea International Inc. will close it’s Kitchener plant, killing 1,200 jobs. For those who ever spent time here, Martinrea is the former Budd Automotive plant on Homer Watson Drive.

What’s worse is the Globe and Mail is reporting that once again, the company tried to negotiate with the CAW, once again the CAW refused to discuss concessions of any kind:

…[a] union official said yesterday that in those talks Martinrea wanted to reduce the $50-an-hour wage and benefit costs by 50 per cent.

Mr. Hargrove said the CAW will not agree to pay cuts, noting that his members could work for free at the GM truck plant in Oshawa, Ont., for example, but even that would not have stopped the auto maker from eliminating one of three shifts of production there.

Of course, if the government threw in half-a-billion dollars, that would help. If the employees do, that “would not have stopped” the company from closing the plant.

It’s getting hard not to notice that this blood bath seems pretty one sided – CAW plants are getting killed.

Auto Industry, CAW

Further Inflexible Unionism

February 8th, 2008
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A few weeks ago I wrote about the closing of Ledco in Kitchener and the CAWs refusal to negotiate concessions, even though their members wanted the negotiation to occur. The refusal to negotiate directly resulted in Ledco closing it’s doors and declaring bankruptcy. The CAW then occupied the plant, blamed Stephen Harper/globilization/the big three. Pithily, I commented:

…you have to wonder if the CAW has no shame: this closing is directly attributable to their refusal to negotiate, and now they are occupying the plant demanding the company do just that.


… does the CAW, today, still refuse to negotiate wage and benefit cuts? And if so, what car will GM put in Oshawa when they are done putting 16 cars in US plants?

Yesterday, Peter Shawn Taylor, a “Waterloo based Freelance writer,” with quite a resume, has written a piece on Ledco, CAW Kills Jobs, Then Demands Severance, and the unions involvement. Taylor makes a few interesting comments:

The union then picketed the empty building for a while. CAW head Buzz Hargrove dropped by once to blame the factory owners and Ottawa. The CAW’s most recent gambit is to demand that Ford, Chrysler and GM ante up for Ledco’s missing severance. This is based on the heretofore unknown financial insight that companies have an “obligation” to cover the payrolls of firms they do business with. Of course none of this makes any practical sense.

The real point of the CAW riding off madly in all directions — casting blame, flexing flaccid muscles and taking nonsensical actions –is to distract everyone from the fact that the demise of the Ledco workers’ jobs was a strategic decision on the part of the CAW itself. In short, they were expendable.

He’s right too. In order to prove to the big three that the CAW is serious about no concessions, they had to let Ledco die. Taylor then points out the CAW position on concessions

It’s worth consider the wording of the CAW’s no-concession statement: “We will not cut our wages, pensions, and benefits. That will never save our industry; at absolute most, it slightly defers the inevitable.”

While Taylor considers this a fatalistic view, I had a different thought. If the above is true, would it not also be true for government bail outs? Especially when you consider a one time bail out of half a billion dollars would be about one years (give or take a hundred or so million) payroll at a big three assembly plant. In other words, Paul Martin’s $200M to GM Oshawa would have equally been saved by now had the union gave a 30% wage concession.

The material point, however, is that an apocalyptic showdown is coming this fall, the big three vs. the CAW. The big three have US concessions from last year in their pocket that may make Canada the most expensive place in the world to build cars. The CAW has it’s stubborn refusal to save Ledco as proof, that concessions are off the table. If you think the Ontario’s manufacturing has been in trouble up to now, a storm is coming to the Canadian auto industry this fall that will determine the future of the industry in Canada.

Auto Industry, CAW, I Love My Job, Wasted Away Again in Buzzistan

Inflexible Unionism: Update

January 25th, 2008

Things are now getting ugly at Ledco as the company filed for bankruptcy last night causing workers blocade the plant, both last night and this morning. The CAW is announcing they have now occupied the plant:

CAW members at Ledco Limited tool and die facility in Kitchener have taken over their plant this morning after the company filed bankruptcy last night.
The CAW has been told the workers will not get their much deserved severance pay for their service. The union will continue to occupy the plant until the company agrees to pay the severance.

It’s hard to blame the poor guys who just lost their job, but you have to wonder if the CAW has no shame: this closing is directly attributable to their refusal to negotiate, and now they are occupying the plant demanding the company do just that.

CAW, Wasted Away Again in Buzzistan

Inflexible Unionism

January 25th, 2008

With news that Kitchener’s Ledco suddenly closed the doors Wednesday after the CAW refused to negotiate wage and benefit cuts, you have to wonder what is up and coming in this falls Big Three contract negotiations.

Reports this week said GM “had scrapped plans to build some rear-wheel-drive sedans in Oshawa, which could reduce planned output at Canada’s largest auto manufacturing complex by 250,000 units per year.” However, GM employees can relax, as Buzz Hargrove has assured them GM is committed to Oshawa:

I’m confident that they not only want to build there, they’re obligated to: Mr. McGuinty’s government put $235 million into the Beacon, Paul Martin’s government put $200 million in, and our local union bargained a new agreement

And if they don’t commit to Oshawa, will taxpayers get their $½ Billion back? Remember last fall, GM committed to 16 new vehicle programs at their US plants, the same plants that gave wage and benefit concessions in a new contract signed in September.

Which takes us back to Ledco:

Elgin Dezell, a 30-year veteran of the plant, said he was in favour of accepting a wage cut to save his job, but his position was at odds with his union.

“The company gave (the union) until 3 o’clock in the afternoon to change their stand,” he said. “We were willing to give the company something, but the union would not allow that. That puts us out on the streets.”

Dezell organized an employee vote in the hopes of persuading his co-workers to accept a 25 per cent wage cut and 20 per cent benefits cut…

Dezell said 29 of his unionized co-workers showed up for the vote, with 23 voting in favour of the pay cut.

Tim Mitchell, president of Local 1524 [Canadian Auto Workers], said the vote was not authorized by the union and did not reflect the wishes of the majority of the workers…

The CAW has a policy of not negotiating wage and benefit cuts.

Mitchell said he was prepared to discuss a number of cost-cutting alternatives with company managers but they refused to budge from their position.

“They took the position that nothing short of the specific demands they made would be acceptable in that facility,” he said. “Then they walked away from negotiations.”

Mitchell said he had not had any meaningful discussions with Ledco management since December…

Kim Austin, human resources manager at Ledco, said that when the decision was made to close the plant in the late afternoon, there wasn’t even enough time to write individual letters to employees.

So the question for Buzz is, does the CAW, today, still refuse to negotiate wage and benefit cuts? And if so, what car will GM put in Oshawa when they are done putting 16 cars in US plants?


How Does More Days Off Help The Manufacturing Crisis?

September 5th, 2007

Two days ago Buzz Hargrove was mentioning “Canada’s Manufacturing Crisis,” which lets face it, is Ontario’s Unionized Manufacturing Crisis, and he laid the blame squarely at Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty. They are the guys who should be losing their jobs, paraphrased Hargrove, not 1,000 GM workers. Interestingly, while Buzz was blaming Harper and Flaherty for not creating enough US demand for pick-up trucks, Dalton McGuinty was making the crisis worse, to stunning unionized silence.

The CAW will tell you they have a very tough round of negotiations coming up with the big three next year, where GM, Ford and Chrysler will all be looking for concessions from their workers. The concessions will be in the form of wages, benefits and paid time off. So in the middle of this crisis, in the middle of a good, the right wingers aren’t left wing enough rant, Buzz’s left leaning buddies in the provincial Liberals decide to create, one more paid day off.

We can debate the merits of the day off pro and contra until the cows come home, but if we are in the middle of a job-loss crisis, this is not helpful, it’s harmful. And, if that is so, shouldn’t Dalton be called out on that fact by Buzz, Jim Stanford et al.? And if they don’t call Buzz on this one, does this mean there is no real crisis?

Oh, and memo to the CBC: back in September 2005, the CAW lost zero (0, none, nada, zilch, soccer score) “jobs at DaimlerChrysler in Ontario.” Many workers, some of whom I knew, worked with, liked, in fact did lose their jobs. But the CAW? They weren’t their jobs, they don’t own the jobs, thus they cannot have lost the jobs. Just sayin’

CAW, Dalton Dalton Dalton

Question For Buzz

July 10th, 2007

I work for Chrysler, and we are always told “buy Chrysler, it protects your job, it’s good for your community &tc.” We hear it from Chrysler, we hear it from the union. Makes sense, really.

Until now. Since Chinese Chery is going to be building cars that Chrysler will sell in North America, if I buy one of these “Chrysler” cars, aren’t I supporting outsourcing my job? And isn’t my community better served if I buy a Corolla, which is built here in Cambridge?

It seems the CAW has been awfully quiet on this one. C’mon Buzz, where’s the guidance?

CAW, I Love My Job