Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Workers of the World Screw Each Other.

That seems to be the motto of auto workers both here and in the US. While it is understandable that workers should be protectionist it makes more sense and is in keeping with worker solidarity to demand better working conditions for Chinese auto workers than to adopt a protectionist stance. The most this will achieve is assembly plants in Canada such as we have now which often compete effectively and also drive down wages. The CAW does have a point though about the unfair trade conditions between China, South Korea, and Japan and Canada with respect to vehicles. Even so I get the distinct impression that the auto union is concerned less with international worker solidarity against capitalist exploitation than in protecting their own dues paying Canadian workers jobs. Their ardent support for capitalism has earned them the right to bargain away everything they have achieved the last few decades at the cost of many struggles. The government has in effect forced the union to bargain away all its gains. Then they will use the taxpayer's money including that of the workers themselves to bail out the company.

CAW seeking limit on imports

As talks drag, union calls on Ottawa to protect jobs, public investment
May 19, 2009 04:30 AM
The Canadian Auto Workers union says Ottawa must make sure General Motors of Canada doesn't import any more vehicles from offshore countries if the government wants to protect jobs here and assure protection of public investment in the teetering automaker.
As talks for worker concessions continue in Canada, Detroit-based parent GM Corp. – which is seeking billions of dollars in public loans – has revealed to the U.S. Congress it plans to start importing small cars from China within two years. Union officials in both countries say the move will kill jobs in North America.
"Obviously the federal and Ontario governments should maximize their return from GM and Chrysler and possibly Ford by limiting imports which have been costing us jobs for years," CAW president Ken Lewenza said in an interview yesterday.
He said the union has pressed Ottawa for years to stop a flood of auto imports here because offshore countries don't offer the same access to Canadian-made vehicles.
GM is already importing South Korean-made small cars to Canada despite union efforts to limit them since Canadian automakers face trade barriers in that Asian country.
"In China, it's the same thing – a one-way flow of trade out," Lewenza said. "Here, we leave it wide open. If this keeps up, the only question for government is when are we (the domestic auto industry) going to die."
Chris Buckley, chairman of the union's bargaining committee, said he finds it "absolutely mind-boggling" that GM is trying to increase imports into North America at a time when it is shutting down North American plants.
In negotiations for worker concessions with General Motors and struggling Chrysler, the union and the federal and Ontario governments have insisted that the companies maintain current levels of output as a percentage of their North American production. If output slid in the U.S., it could drop here too and still hold the production threshold.
The union has repeatedly told Ottawa to fix the trade problem and limit imports, but Buckley would not comment on whether the federal and Ontario governments should refuse GM's current requests for loans if the company plans to increase imports here.
In the U.S., the United Auto Workers union has complained to the government about GM's plan to close 16 plants while "dramatically" increasing auto imports from Mexico, South Korea, Japan and China.
The UAW said GM wants to nearly double the number of imports from those countries, which would cost 21,000 unionized jobs south of the border.
GM acknowledged it plans to start importing small cars from China starting in 2011 and gradually bump up the number to 51,000 by 2014. But the company says the percentage of cars made and sold in the U.S. will remain stable, with fewer imports likely from Canada.
Some industry watchers say GM needs to import small cars from countries with lower labour costs to remain competitive.
GM shut down its truck assembly plant in Oshawa last week and plans to close a transmission operation in Windsor next year. At one time in the 1990s, GM had six assembly plants in Canada but now operates only two, one in Oshawa and one in Ingersoll. The Ingersoll plant is a joint venture with Suzuki.
The issue over imports has overshadowed continuing negotiations for worker concessions, particularly in the U.S. GM must reach deals for concessions from workers, debtholders and other stakeholders by June 1 to qualify for billions of dollars in additional aid from governments in both countries. GM has already received $15.4 billion (U.S.) in loans from the American government and another $500 million (Canadian) from Ottawa and the provincial government.
Meanwhile, negotiations for concessions by workers here dragged through the weekend at a downtown hotel without resolution on how to reduce GM's huge underfunded pension plan. The governments had set a "deadline" of last Friday night for a deal.
Sources close to the talks said GM now wants thousands of active workers to start paying into the fund, which had a shortfall of more than $4 billion in 2007. GM has not yet released 2008 figures but experts say the shortfall could now be higher than $7 billion.
GM and Lewenza would not comment on demands, but the union leader said there are "multiple proposals for active workers which are much different" than what Chrysler employees recently accepted so that company could qualify for aid.
"We are close to the end of our ability to give," Lewenza said last night. "Sooner or later, GM and the federal and provincial governments will realize that."
Both sides agree that GM's pension plan is in far worse shape than Chrysler's fund after years of making minimal contributions under a special provision in provincial legislation.
Chrysler workers ratified a deal that froze wages, cut benefits, eliminated bonuses and some vacation time. They also agreed for the first time that new employees would contribute $1 an hour, or about $1,700 annually, to the company's defined pension plan.

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