Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Big 3 Auto Bailout

I used to work for a company that, as a manager, I received a company car, my insurance was paid, and I had typical vacation and sick day benefits. There was also profit sharing. Though, it was in the form of a retirement or severance account. All very nice things. It was a popular local retail chain, and was, obviously, profitable to be able to offer the benefits it did.

I don't think anyone would see a problem with that. I certainly don't. I'm envious of jobs like that. I could certainly work my way back in to retail if I wanted to . . . but I don't want to. My current employer offers benefits, but I do pay for a portion of them.

If the auto makers were so profitable as to offer up the benefit packages they do, I wouldn't have a problem with it. Of course, that's not the case. Now, the auto makers want government money . . . tax money . . . to help them out of the situation they're in.

I have a problem with that.

Well, the UAW says it's willing to renegotiate contracts to help out the auto makers. From Yahoo News:

The United Auto Workers said Wednesday it is willing to change its contracts with U.S. automakers and accept delayed payments of billions of dollars to a union-run health care trust to do its part to help the struggling companies secure $34 billion in government loans.

Not good enough. Delayed payments? I don't think so. These packages need to be renegotiated such that it brings the costs down. Which likely means scaling some benefits back and/or having the workers kick in for some of the costs.

United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger said the union will suspend the jobs bank, in which laid-off workers are paid up to 95 percent of their salaries while not working, but he did not give specifics or a timetable of when the program will end.

Well then, get specific. Again, I'm not against the job bank. It seems like a nice perk to have when there's temporary lay offs. But again, if I'm asked to help pay for it then there need to be some changes. Like, get rid of it.

"There's a perception problem," Gettelfinger said, stressing that the automakers' woes have painted a negative view of the union. "Yes, we have lost some clout."

Not true. You've lost ALL clout.

Congressional leaders demanded business plans from all three that include a reduction in labor costs so Detroit is more competitive with foreign automakers with U.S. factories. The companies submitted their plans to Congress on Tuesday.

"I don't think Congress is out for blood," Gettelfinger said of the criticism the union received during his previous testimony last month. "There will be more pressure on us to do this. We're going to step up and do it."

That sentiment was echoed by several union representatives at the news conference. "Everybody has to give a little bit," said Rich Bennett, an official for Local 122 in Twinsburg, Ohio, representing Chrysler workers. "We've made concessions. We really feel we're doing our part."

But a retired GM worker said the union might be acting hastily out of fear that one of the automakers could shut down. "Fear is a bad basis on which to make decisions," said Frank Hammer, of Local 909 in Warren, Mich. "I think they're making another mistake."

Might be acting out of fear that a factory MIGHT shut down? I wonder if this guy would be willing to give up some of his pension on the notion that he'd be repaid at some time.

I doubt it.

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