Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dear employee, do this or your jobs will die...

“We are coming down to the wire in the fight for our company's survival – and we need your support.” -- Part of a letter to Chrysler Canada employees this week, outlining the need for concessions in their current contract.

It's an interesting and potentially life changing dynamic playing out for the workers of Chrysler these days.

The automaker currently trying to secure more funding for operations from the Canadian and American governments, while at the same time seeking out a new co-owner to share the burden of producing automobiles has taken their case to the employees, a case which is looking at some rather serious changes to the current arrangement in place.

Friday, the automaker brought out the heavy ammunition when it comes to talking with its unionized workforce, delivering the second letter in two days, outlining how without a number of changes to the current collective agreement, some 9400 jobs will just disappear and with it production of the company's brands in this country.

As Chrysler and Fiat continue their talks on a possible merger, a nineteen dollar gap has become the key point of contention between Chrysler and its unions, Chrysler wants employees to accept reductions to a number of benefits currently in place a reduction that would in amount result in a nineteen dollar an hour reduction in the benefit program.
The company wants to reduce the current all in labour cost from 76 dollars an hour, down to the apparent gold standard rate at Toyota of 57 dollars an hour. As it stands at the moment, the base salaries and pension monies of current and past employees would remain as they are.

Without the concessions, Chrysler suggests that it's not feasible to continue operations in Canada and with that would come a spin off effect of job losses beyond the Chrysler plants, automotive parts plants, dealerships and other suppliers would suffer at the loss of that production adding on to the effects of the recession in Ontario that are already climbing.

Employees weren't particularly impressed with the Dear employee letters of Thursday and Friday, with a number of workers burning the Friday offering outside of the gates of a Windsor plant as a form of protest over the turn of events in employer/employee relations.

Regardless of that outrage and the current climate to stay the course at the CAW, time is marching on and the clock is ticking on any decision, ticking very fast as it turns out.

It's obviously a tough thing for any worker to give back hard fought gains at the negotiating table, and there's no real guarantee that even with those concessions that Chrysler will survive much more into the future. In better times, the idea of giving in to what is really a case of corporate blackmail would be dismissed as a non starter. But these aren't normal, let alone better times for the world of the big North American automakers.

In the end, if the CAW members decide to stick to their guns and refuse the concessions, one has to wonder if the membership won't soon end up in a situation where they think that they threw the employment baby out with the bath water.

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