But Chrysler will have to reciprocate in time
Re-negotiating CAW's lucrative labour contract with Chrysler must be the hardest thing CAW President Ken Lewenza imagined he would ever have to do.
Yet that is precisely what Lewenza has done. In doing so, he's saved thousands of jobs for his constituents in the Canadian Autoworkers Union.
In voting to accept a cost-cutting deal with Chrysler that will save thousands of jobs, the CAW have themselves an immense service.
Naturally, not everyone sees it the same way. Especially militant is former CAW President Buzz Hargrove, who blamed the government for the entire affair. "I'm angry as hell," he fumed. "I'm not angry at my union, they've done an incredible job. I'm angry at a government. A government that has used a heavy hand -- Mr. Clement and Mr. Bryant, the provincial government as well -- to force workers to give up things that they've worked hard and gained over the years."
It isn't surprising. Hargrove had already made an appearance on a special episode of CBC's Dragon's Den insisting that the government should extend automakers an unconditional bail out -- adamantly refusing to admit that extending such a bailout without a significant restructuring of the companies' operations would inevitably result in further financial trouble for those companies, and further lost jobs. Possibly even another bail out down the road.
Hargrove's sense of entitlement seems to have not wavered one iota. When he appeared on the Dragon's Den Hargrove showed up with his hands in his pockets, almost entirely unprepared to defend his position, and offering little to persuade anyone that such a bail out should be extended at all.
"It's unprecedented where a government would step in and say: 'You're going to cut your wages by $19 an hour,'" Hargrove grumbled. "You know, there's over 20 countries around the world -- France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Australia, New Zealand - all of these countries around the world are pumping money into the auto sector because of the worldwide economic crisis we find ourselves in."
Yet Hargrove overlooks the fact that it wasn't the government that demanded Chrysler cut its wage costs by $19 an hour -- that was Fiat, the partner in the merger that will hopefully save that company.
Despite Hargrove's objections, CAW has indeed done the right thing. But this is far from the end of the story.
In time, the onus will eventually fall on Chrysler to also do the right thing and reciprocate CAW's good will. This should come in the form of a structured plan to restore the conceded wages and benefits once the company becomes profitable again.
A situation where a labour union makes concessions to help a struggling company stay afloat shouldn't be tolearted. Having done the right thing for both themselves and Chrysler, CAW shouldn't be betrayed like many other companies have done in the past.