Monday, January 30, 2006

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Fording Ford's troubles

We live about a 20-minute drive from the Ford Motor Company factory that manufactures the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis. When I cycle to the beach at Port Stanley, I ride right by it. I wave every time.

Ford's global troubles have affected this facility - known alternately as Ford Talbotville or Ford St. Thomas - and, by extension, the community that relies on it. Last Monday's announcement cut the plant back to one shift and resulted in the loss of some 1,200 jobs. In response, the union reps who represent the workers there have released their usual "they owe us" response.

My perspective is simple: the next round of layoffs could be the last for this plant. Being reduced to one shift is often the last step before permanent closure - unless you wise up and work cooperatively to find a creative solution (remember, I'm an idealist.)

It's time for the unionistas to sing a new tune. I doubt they will, and I doubt this column is going to secure my invitation to this year's Christmas party.
Purging the notion of entitlement
Published Wednesday, January 25, 2006
The London Free Press

There’s a right way and a wrong way to respond when your livelihood is threatened.

Whitey MacDonald is chairperson of Local 1520 of the Canadian Auto Workers union, which represents the Ford workers at the St. Thomas assembly plant. Ford’s reduction of the plant to one shift, part of a global restructuring to ensure the company’s survival, will eliminate up to 1,200 jobs at the facility.

Following the announcement, MacDonald said, “We are entitled to some new investment, given our track record.”

Entitlement no longer holds water in an increasingly competitive automotive market that is too small for Ford’s current size. Ford can no longer guarantee its workers anything as it battles for its very life. Ford is no different from any other manufacturer.

So what is the right way? The CAW must work creatively with Ford to figure out how St. Thomas can become a “flex” facility that can make more than one model. And its leaders must dispense with the dreams of entitlement. Times have changed.

Your turn: My perspective - that the powerful unions of yesteryear need to adapt to a very new and much colder economic reality - is pretty clear to anyone who reads me over time. Do you think an enlightened labor movement will be enough to help the American auto manufacturers survive? Do unions belong in the automotive landscape of tomorrow?


kenju said...

An enlightened and forward-thinking labor movement would certainly help - but the best way for US auto companies to thrive is to build a superior product!

Lisa said...

I'm pretty uneducated on this subject, but kenju's statement about building a superior product sure makes sense.

In sort of related news, did you hear that Ford is no longer letting their employees park in the "prime" parking lots if they don't drive Fords? That really cracked me up...

Minerva said...

I agree...I am a teacher unions and their blinkered ways of thinking do drive me mad...

'Ask not what your company can do for you, but what you can do for your company...'

*with apologies to the original*


Reid Dalgleish said...

Things are really messed up, Carmi. I'm not sure how the car companies were able to keep things looking like business as normal if things have been going so bad. I think the execs and unions were so certain things were looking like the land of plenty for so long, they completely lost touch with what was going on in the real world. Realistically, it was inevitable that the North American manufacturing plant would eventually lose out to the cheaper, more numerous offerings coming from SE Asia. Just wait until the gas prices start going up permanently - hoo boy.

Jennifer said...

My husband works for Nissan, and his plant has stubbornly refused to be unionized over the years. Nissan hasn't laid off anyone, has given out extra bonuses, has excellent benefits. I personally have no use for unions. We're doing just fine without them! :)

chronicler said...

I have been a labor union member and I have worked for non-union shops as well. My two cents is that the union that were formed long ago to protect laborers from their employers are long gone. Unions of today are in place as machines unto themselves. They pigeon-holed everyone into the same box. We were all equal. Lots of us worked harder the others. We still got paid the same, were never given bonuses or merit increases because we did a good job. The mentality is to serve the worst of the group and all else would survive from that.

In short, unions have seen their day. It's time to move on and move up.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Where I'm in firm belief that unions are necessary, I also think they need to take into consideration they are representing employees that need jobs. The climate in the US is not good, I don't care what W says.

Here via Michele's this time

daro said...

I worked at Talbotville for many years both on teh line and as a supervisor. In both of mypositions I saw the union as a club to protect the ones who wanted to beat the system. As a supervisor you are always picking on the good workers with a work ethic for the hard jobs becuase you won't have to deal with the guys who think the world owes them a living and have the union to protect them. Form the line workers side it looked just the same, my work ethic was not something that the union supported beacause I valued cooperation as a long term strategy. I was young and foolish then.