Lifestyle

Editorial: With help like this ...

The CAW didn't create the financial crisis, but it's not doing enough to help GM — or taxpayers — get out of it.

After negotiating a deal with General Motors that Chrysler and Ford insist is not good enough, the new head of the Canadian Auto Workers says his union has done enough. Taxpayers, Ken Lewenza argues, must do the rest if Canada wants to keep the local operations of the companies formerly known as the Big Three. As for the critics, well, according to Buzz 2.0, they have no grounds to gripe, because the union’s hardworking members did not create the financial crisis.

The problem with this logic, of course, is that nobody blames autoworkers for the meltdown of economic activity. The point is that CAW members should willingly sacrifice more, because the golden pay and benefits that union leaders squeezed out of their shortsighted employers can no longer be supported by the companies in question.

For the record, the unionized auto sector was relying on public support long before taking a hit from the credit freeze, which by the way is forcing average Canadians across all sectors to sacrifice. But the CAW has never tempered its demands to reality. Instead, it wants public support for the weakest players in an industry with serious overcapacity. Such support actually threatens the jobs of taxpayers employed by Toyota and Honda at plants that are every bit as Canadian as any of the Detroit trio.

When supposedly doing its part to save GM, the CAW agreed to ditch only five of the 10 “special paid absence” (or SPA) days that unionized workers get every year, over and above generous vacation leave and holidays. The union gave up its cost-of-living adjustment (in a near-zero inflation environment), but didn’t reduce pay levels or even agree to help finance GM Canada’s seriously underfunded pension plan. Company contributions to special employee perks funds were cut by about a third, but the CAW still expects its insolvent employer to help the best-paid manufacturing workers in this country cover the cost of things like speeding tickets, home purchases and divorces.

At a time when taxpayers are quite rightly concerned about where their money is going, that’s every bit as ridiculous as bonuses to executives at AIG.