Sunday, September 16, 2012

CAW Head Lewenza Set To Strike For Jobs That Don't Exist.....

and never will. I've predicted this was going to happen for the past few years, both here and on other blogs, as well as media sources.

"The union is refusing to back down from several cost-cutting proposals, including a new pay scale which would prevent newly-hired workers from ever reaching what is currently the top pay amount for more senior workers.

"We are opposed to that proposal because it doesn't make any sense in the long run," Kennedy said. "We believe people working side-by-side, doing the same job should at least have the opportunity to have the same pay."

"However, the auto-makers argue Canada has become too expensive to build vehicles and have hinted about moving production south as a way to save money."

 The stance held by Lewenza and the CAW leadership is so obviously flawed only Lewenza himself fails to see it. Gone are the days of the Auto Pact. Gone are the days of the Big 3 owning the North American market. Gone are the days of a secular economy, one that now has transformed to a global economy. Manufacturing, not just in Canada but in all of North America has and will continue to face a labour market from countries like China and Korea with wages that are a quarter of minimum wage in most North American jurisdictions. Then there is that other pesky reality Lewenza refuses to acknowledge, many of the lower 48 U.S. states with double digit unemployment. Governors and a U.S. president more than willing to bring those Canadian auto plants and their jobs south of the border, with the UAW already agreeing to the demands now facing Lewenza and the CAW years earlier.

All of this in itself should be a wake-up call for the CAW National leadership, Lewenza included. This isn't just a matter of the CAW and UAW fighting over assembly plants and the jobs that go with them. This is about letting the Big 3 compete globally with the import manufacturers. The current pension packages enjoyed by current workers, myself included, cannot be included for new hires with the companies having any chance for financial sustainability or cost competitiveness. Nor can the wages of any newly hired workers.

 All this in and of itself should give Lewenza pause to reconsider his hard line stance. But there is something of even greater importance here, that being the CAW giving proper representation to current workers, ones who have been paying union dues for years. Should Lewenza's negotiating tactics result in the closure of Canadian plants, the consequences will be felt by the workers on the line, not Lewenza or his cohorts in the National. And what would those consequences be?

1) Any current workers with less than 10 years of service would lose any pension entitlement, as 10 years is the minimum threshold for having one's pension become vested.
2) Any current worker with more than 10 years and less than 30 would have to wait until age 65 to begin drawing their pension, rather than their 30-year service date.
3) Any current worker with more than 10 years and less than 30 would have their pension benefit reduced to the number of years of credited service at the time of plant closure, a significant cut.
4) As per the current agreement, workers laid off as a result of plant closure would have their benefits terminated at the time specified in the current agreement.
5) Current workers would lose their job, now paying roughly $30 per hour. Does anyone, Lewenza included, think these workers will ever land another job close to that wage?
6) Spin off jobs will be lost. The automakers utilize parts vendors close to the assembly plants to save on shipping costs and storage, using just-in-time delivery. Many of these workers at the parts vendors are CAW members.

 The job of the CAW is to represent it's current workers in their best interest. That's not happening here. Should the CAW agree to the demands for newly hired workers and their wages, there would be no shortage of people willing to take those jobs. And years down the road, the CAW could negotiate from a position of strength, rather than one drawn from union boardrooms in the '60's.

 The jobs of thousands of Canadian workers hinge on Lewenza and his ability to accept today's reality. Do the right thing Ken.