Sunday, November 09, 2008

Concessions Don't Work

Concession bargaining is always a defeat for workers, it never results in any real gains, and is always presented by the bosses as the alternative to unemployment and job loss. Want job security give us back wage and benefit gains you have made. It is an example of one step forward two steps back. And it is the contradicition which exposes the fallacy that business unions are weapons to defeat capital, rather they bargain workers labour for a seat at the table of capitalism, but that seat keeps getting kicked out from under them and they are shocked.

Trades Unions work well as centers of resistance against the encroachments of capital. They fail partially from an injudicious use of their power. They fail generally from limiting themselves to a guerilla war against the effects of the existing system, instead of simultaneously trying to change it, instead of using their organized forces as a lever for the final emancipation of the working class that is to say the ultimate abolition of the wages system.
Karl Marx, Value, Price and Profit, Addressed to Working Men, The First International Working Men's Association, 1865.

As these news stories show nothing has changed. Concessions are demanded and plants still close. And the current crisis of capitalist credit is used as an excuse to demand more from workerrs in order for the bosses to capitalize their bottom line.

The union representing 85 striking and soon-to-be unemployed workers at Mercury Graphics Corp. has filed charges against the company for poor bargaining practices.
A major sticking point of plant closure negotiations is severance pay, said Cossar. Under the collective agreement and the provincial Labour Standards Act, employees should recieve two weeks of pay per year of employment. For people who have worked for the company for 25 to 30 years, that means a severance payment between $40,000 and $50,000.
The company has offered its employees $2,500 in severance, she said.
"It's an absolute insult to offer someone twenty-five hundred bucks for someone who has invested 25 years in a company," Cossar said. "It's appaling behaviour on the part of a company who didn't need to close down in the first place."
At the company's request, the union agreed to some concessions -- worth $300,000 -- to keep the plant open, Cossar explained. Mercury Graphics, however, wanted more, she said.

Court Rules in Favor of Wage Concessions for Frontier Airlines
Bankruptcy Court today granted Frontier Airlines relief it requested regarding its collective bargaining agreement with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT). The court granted Frontier's request for wage concessions from the IBT and adopted the airline's proposed heavy maintenance plan. Frontier's plan allows the company to furlough its heavy maintenance workers during periods Frontier does not require heavy maintenance work and recall these workers during periods Frontier has work available.
"Our inability to reach agreement on outsourcing heavy maintenance, given our reductions in fleet size, would have put Frontier at a competitive disadvantage and required heavier operational outlays than we feel are appropriate in this competitive market and in these difficult economic times," Collins said. "This ruling allows us to continue to perform heavy maintenance with our trusted employees, while providing us the option to outsource if court-approved milestones are not met."

Toronto workers to fight for 'sick bank'
Unionized City of Toronto workers will strongly resist any attempt to take away a perk that gives them up to six months' pay from cashing in unused sick days when they leave the job.
The issue of the "sick bank" – a relic of the days before short- and long-term disability programs – came up in 2005 contract talks, and management is expected to raise it again in talks due to start soon, said Brian Cochrane, chief negotiator for the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 416.
"We understand that they are going to try and take away the sick banks," Cochrane said. "To what extent we won't know until we hit the bargaining table."

Issaquah school unions file unfair labor charge
“The Issaquah School District is not negotiating with their employees,” Powell said. “The district is not negotiating in good faith. The district is demanding language concessions in our agreement that has nothing to do with economics and that our members will never agree to.”
If district officials are found, regarding either of the unions’ charges, in violation of state law by not passing through the cost of living adjustment and added health benefit increases, commission investigators can mandate that district officials pass through each, dating back to Sept. 1.
Neither union’s employees are receiving their cost of living adjustment nor their health benefits increase this year.
Each employee is paying an additional $25 per month to compensate for district officials not passing those through, in addition to their out-of-pocket medical expenses, Powell said.

Michael Russo's Sunday Insider: NHL players brace for concessions
Goals and assists, wins and losses are issues NHL players care most about, but Paul Kelly is giving his players a lesson on economics.
As the NHL Players' Association executive director began his second fall tour last week, one key topic was explaining why the union has decided to put 13.5 percent of each player's salary into escrow.
Under the collective bargaining agreement, players put money into escrow in case salaries exceed 57 percent of hockey-related revenues. If that happens, money is refunded to the owners from the escrow account after the season.
NHL revenues reached a record $2.6 billion last season, but because of the uncertainty in today's economy and the decline in value of the Canadian dollar (down to 83 cents against the U.S. dollar Friday), Kelly proposed the record escrow number.

It was the tactic of the bosses during the recession of the eighties. A recession directly caused by the neo-con agenda of Reagan and Thatcher. And both of them challenged the unions with state power giving the signal to the bosses that concession bargaining was ok.Reagan attacked PATCO air contollers and Thatcher the powerful Mine Workers Union. And again during the debt nd deficit hysteria in Canada during the ninties concession bargaining was demanded by Bob Rae and the NDP in Ontario of public sector workers, and in Alberta with Safeways demanding concessions and a 5% roll back from UFCW leading to Ralph Klein calling for wage and benefit cuts to Alberta's public sector workers.

Canadian unions, like their counterparts in most other developed countries, were on the defensive from neoliberal policies of wage restraint and fiscal austerity long before the crisis hit. Struggling with hostile employers – whose anti-union repertoire includes shutting down locations where workers are involved in organizing drives, to back-to-work legislation against public sector strikers, the re-organization of work processes and the deployment of organizational forms that are resistant to the control of industrial and craft unionism – unions were pushed back and forced to accept concession bargaining. Thus, they may not be in a position to successfully resist employers' pressure for wage-cuts

During the fifties and sixties wages and benefits for private sector and public sector workers, who actively fought for the right to unionise, increased. With the oil crisis and post Viet-Nam war downturn in the economy a recession occurred and the State attacked workers rights through wage and price controls. The latter being far less effective than the former.

Taking its lead from the state right wing think tanks like the Cato Instititue and Fraser Institute promoted the idea that their neo-con state could reduce workers wages and benefits increasing the bottom line by attacking the uniion movement. Their ultimate plan has always been to smash unions but when this could not be done, the bosses demanded concessions and claw backs from workers. The bottom line was to increase profits, the threat was plant closure or lay offs.

Even as the economy boomed workers were asked for concessions and as taxpayers were asked to bail out companies like the Big Three automakers. Who came with cap in hand in the eighties to ask taxpayers (workers by any other name) to bail them out. And returned again over the past two years as the market for their SUV's and Trucks collapsed.

The recent downturn in the economy is only an excuse to demand more concessions, and whipsaw workers by moving jobs out of Canada. Here is another reason we need to nationalize the auto industry under workers control. Clearly tax investments as well as concessions do not mean job protection nor are they an industrial strategy.

Navistar to slash jobs at Ontario truck plant
TORONTO, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Navistar International Corp confirmed on Thursday it will lay off as many as 499 workers at its Chatham, Ontario, truck plant early next year due to deteriorating market conditions.
The union and the company squared off in 2003 when Navistar said it was going to close the plant in Chatham, which is about 65 kilometers (40 miles) east of Detroit and has a population of about 100,000, and move production to Mexico.
In the end, the CAW said it agreed to significant concessions to keep the plant in Ontario and the federal and provincial governments kicked in C$65 million ($54.6 million) to sweeten the pot.
"We had an incredible struggle five or six years ago in that community to save that manufacturing plant," said CAW President Ken Lewenza.
"We believe it (the layoff announcement) violates the spirit of the agreement that we struck," he said, adding that the company now plans to increase production in Mexico.

Ontario could claw back investment in Chatham truck plant
Navistar International Corp. "will pay" if hundreds of job cuts at its truck plant in southwestern Ontario violate the terms of a government bailout agreement it signed five years ago, Economic Development Minister Michael Bryant vowed Thursday.
The Illinois-based company (NYSE:
NAV) received millions of taxpayer dollars to keep open the plant in Chatham, Ont., and will have to pay some of that back if it fails to live up to its end of the deal, Bryant said.
"There is an agreement in place. Taxpayer dollars have been spent," he said.
"Navistar has to fulfil their obligations, which is what we want them to do. But if they don't, we will enforce that contract and we will make them pay."
The job cuts announced Wednesday will affect 470 employees at the Navistar-owned International Truck and Engine Corp., which faced closure in 2003 during a downturn in the heavy-truck market.
The layoffs start Jan. 31 and will leave the plant with about 400 employees.
Bryant didn't provide any details Thursday about the amount of money the company received, the terms of the agreement or how much it may have to repay.
But the Canadian Auto Workers union says International Truck received a $60-million government bailout package to remain open, along with $44 million in annual concessions from workers.
Bryant called the job cuts "totally unacceptable" and warned that Navistar would face repercussions if the layoffs breach the contract it signed back in 2003 under Ontario's previous Conservative government.
"I'm sure that Navistar would not want to damage their international reputation by not responding to a government – provincial and federal – that provided millions of taxpayer dollars in exchange for investments and jobs," Bryant said.
"What's important here is that taxpayer dollars are spent as they are supposed to be. But there is no free lunch, I say to Navistar, when it comes to investments in the province of Ontario."
NDP Leader Howard Hampton dismissed Bryant's remarks as "nothing more than media spin" as the province continues to be hammered by massive job losses in its troubled manufacturing sector.
The governing Liberals invested $235 million to help General Motors (NYSE:
GM), only to see thousands of workers laid off, he said.

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Nick Manley said...


I am kind of weird politically. At age 14-15, I was probably a strict anarcho-communist. I discovered the more radical forms of market libertarianism later on and augmented my knowledge. In my efforts to conceptually separate your or Kevin Carson's analysis of this crisis and an Austrian like Chris Sciabarra, I've discovered I need to read more Marx to fully understand your intellectual roots.

I've been mired in individualist anarchist understandings of how market processes work for awhile now. When I first got into anarchism at a young age, I was arguably more attracted to its anti-authortarian spirit then its association with the LTV. I get headaches when I read debates on economic value theory, but I manage to grasp it eventually.

Do I understand you correctly when I posit you agreeing with Marx's ideas on the natural tendency of competitive markets towards centralization? Or is it that you agree with a Tucker or Chris Sciabarra about the tendency of market entry to disperse economic power? I figure you do, but you say let's go all the way to a communist society, since the executive committee of the ruling class is gone now.

Ah! I know more Marx then I thought ( :

Nick Manley said...

As much as I want to emotionally embrace a right-libertarianism sometimes out of weariness from being opposed so much to the present order, it's always stories like this that give me pause. I have trouble wrapping my head around an individualism that allows a few rich CEOS to truly live their lives the way they want to.

Just an additional thought ( :

Nick Manley said...

*Only a few rich CEOS

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