Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Big Three Killed My Baby

OTTAWA — The Canadian Auto Workers union, which has long resisted offering concessions, said Thursday that it would begin special contract talks with the automakers based in Detroit.

The union’s change of heart is related to the Canadian government’s offer of bailout money to those companies’ subsidiaries in Canada. Tony Clement, the minister of industry, has said the government would give money only if Canadian wages and benefits matched those paid by Honda and Toyota in Canada.

The federal and Ontario governments have pledged about 4 billion Canadian dollars ($3.3 billion) in emergency loans to the industry.

“Labor costs clearly did not cause this worldwide crisis in the auto industry, and labor concessions cannot possibly solve that crisis,” Ken Lewenza, the union’s president, said in a statement. “But we can’t ignore the precarious financial state of these companies, the extraordinary government offers of aid and our need to remain fully competitive for future investment.”

The union’s members are in the first year of three-year contracts with the Canadian units of Chrysler, Ford Motor and General Motors.

The Canadian labor agreements provide wages of 34 Canadian dollars an hour.

Toyota’s main Canadian plant in Cambridge, Ontario, pays a median wage of 33.25 Canadian dollars an hour.
In other words, like their Republican counterparts south of the border the Conservatives view the crisis facing the auto industry - almost entirely due to executive incompetence - as just another opportunity to attack workers based on insultingly spurious arguments.

I still remember visiting MPs on the hill when I was lobbying for my then union the TWU. Liberals were gushingly polite but their hearty handshakes and empty smiles promised nothing. The NDP invited us to a full caucus meeting, gave us a standing ovation and brought our issues to the house. The Conservatives... well I still remember sitting open-mouthed across the desk from a Conservative MP as he ranted about 'union mischief' until the spittle flew.

After the fiscal update's declaration of their desire to strip rights from public sector workers and their all but unanimous support for the Liberal's betrayal of labour on anti-scab and now this sleazy attempt to lay all the auto industry's troubles at the doors of their workers because of a 75 cent labour cost difference it should be clear to everyone that the Conservatives just hate any workers who band together to protect their interests.

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