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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?


  1. BBS
    January 25th, 2008 at 10:55 | #1

    My brother left a unionized plant to get a job with a non-unionized plant. The non-unionized plant ended up shutting down after 4 years due to loss of work from Toyota. In the time he was there he got his welding ticket and lift truck license (required for hiring, paid for by the company). After a short while he was promoted to shipping and further trained. He received more training in 2 years than the previous 10 at the unionized shop. With his new skill set he was easily able to find a job before his old plant even closed.

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