The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Friday, June 06, 2008

GM vs the CAW

On May 19, General Motors came to an agreement with its Canadian workers, whereby CAW members would see a wage freeze in the first year and cost of living adjustments for the second and third years in exchange for some modicum of job security during those three years, or at least as much security as is possible when layoffs and shift reductions are a constant possibility.

Two weeks ago, GM stated that its truck plant in Oshawa, which currently makes such vehicles as the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra, would be closing. Period. No layoffs, no retooling, no chances of being called back to work.

The union claims GM failed to bargain in good faith. GM says that changing market conditions required it to come to a quick decision.
"We have been accused of being a slow company in the past. We have to react fast."

Stew Low, GM Canada spokesperson

I call bullshit.

I am becoming very tired of the modern doctrine of deliberate ignorance. For years now the price of oil has been steadily climbing, increasingly fast in past months; and in parallel the modern consumer has been looking away from the gas-guzzler truck toward more gas-efficient forms of transportation. It is a CEO's job to project trends, and this is one that had sirens and a halogen searchlight attached to it. To claim that the pattern of market factors changed sufficiently in two weeks to justify the difference between a wage freeze and a plant closing, well, I see only two explanations:
  • Either the market conditions that would require a plant's closure were in fact known at the time of negotiation (and thus it was the CEO's responsibility to see that the bargaining committee was aware of them, since anything less approaches criminal negligence);

  • or else the CEO of General Motors is incompetent.
Which is it?

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