Friday, June 1, 2012

CAW Head Ken Lewenza Should Resign

It's becoming all to common, so much so that even someone like myself is becoming immune to these types of news stories. I'm talking about GM's announcement today:

 “As previously announced, the Consolidated Line will cease at the end of (the) scheduled lifecycle for the current-generation Impala. This is currently anticipated to occur in June 2013,” the company said in a statement Friday.'

Now I'll readily admit the greed shown by corporations and their executives is to the point of making me gag. But in this instance, as in other recent announcements, the blame for this closing, with the resulting job losses of 2,000 GM employees,as well as spin-off jobs should be placed squarely on the shoulders of CAW head Ken Lewenza. It's 2012, yet Lewenza still thinks he's bargaining in the 60's. There have been closings over the past few years where Lewenza and the CAW National refused to allow concessions even when the workers losing their jobs, the ones getting thrown out of work, were open to the idea of concessions if it allowed them to maintain jobs they had been working at for many years.

 Were these GM assembly line jobs going to a country like China, where Canadian workers cannot competitively stand a chance of matching wages, I can see the workers accepting their fate. But these jobs, quality jobs with good pay and benefits, aren't going overseas. Their going south of the border. The reason? Lewenza's steadfast stance that the CAW will not change it's bargaining position in regards to bonuses instead of wage increases.

"Last year, the CAW’s counterpart in the U.S., the United Auto Workers agreed to link pay raises to company performance. Instead of fixed wage increases, the union accepted signing bonuses and profit-sharing incentives, concessions the CAW has unequivocally rejected."

Make no mistake. The gap between the wages paid these workers in the U.S. compares closely with those paid to the Oshawa workers. What has resulted in this announcement is Lewenza's pig-headed refusal to look at the big picture, or more importantly doing what's in the best interests of those line workers. Instead, Lewenza clings to a by-gone era where the unions ruled the roost. His position also ignores recent history. When GM and Chrysler faced bankruptcy, the union had not one iota of bargaining power. Zippo. Nilch. Yes, both GM and Chrysler have posted profits recently, They also lost billions that will take a decade to recover. Allowing these companies further time to recover will result in new vehicles that will require assembly plants and workers to build. Companies are still pinching pennies on R&D. A successful company will have successful workers.

 This alludes to the title of my post. If Lewenza truly believes he is right, call a meeting of those 2,000 workers. Allow an open vote as to whether the CAW should change it's bargaining strategy and adopt performance and profit-sharing bonuses. If they vote for change, Lewenza must accept the will of the workers, workers belonging to a union supposedly based on the concept of democracy.

 If Lewenza refuses the results of the vote, or simply refuses to allow a vote, then he should immediately submit his resignation. We've witnessed the closing of the Oshawa truck plant because the CAW refused to bargain two-tier wages. Those trucks are now built in the U.S. and Mexico. We've witnessed the London plant close that made locomotives. Yes, Caterpillar asked for ridiculous concessions, but Lewenza sealed the workers fate with his steadfast refusal to even make a counter-offer. Lewenza has strongly hinted he will continue down this road in this years negotiations, with either the Chrysler Brampton or Windsor assembly plants likely to be another closure target. Chrysler has a vacant mini-van plant in St. Louis that could be manufacturing Caravan's in  mater of days.


OMMAG said...

Your in a tough spot if you are a long term auto worker.

These union execs have been conning the rank and file for as long as I can remember. The whole point of the Union is to protect the worker from abuse.

No more and no less. The rest of how that evolved is a long and sad story of corruption and fraud on the part of the thugs like Lewenza. Thes people are the problem.

Dollops said...

Caterpillar "asked for ridiculous concessions" huh? Caterpillar had a death wish? Ridiculous comment.

Frances said...

Always interested to read your take on these issues. There is a real disconnect today between employees and employers, with too many of the former failing to realize that their paycheques depend on their producing enough (product or services) to cover the employer's cost of hiring them plus their share of overheads. I agree there are a lot of greedy employers (senior management and HR people always seem to be able to protect themselves), but I've seen small businesses have real problems because of lousy employees.

paulsstuff said...

Caterpillar repeatedly asked for a counter-offer. Lewenza refused. The original contract expired in May 2011. Caterpillar extended it until January 2012, giving Lewenza time to come up with something. He didn't.

Same thing happened with the Chrysler Ajax Trim Plant. Ditto Stratford. Same with Navistar in Chatham.