Another Reason For Opposing A Bailout Of The Big Three Automakers

Jobs bank programs. I doubt anyone can give one good reason why we should pay people not to work. But that is what is happening up in Detroit and one of the many reasons why the American automakers are failing.

The following excerpt comes from a story first published by the Detroit News back in 2005. It should have been a clear warning sign to anyone who read it.

Ken Pool is making good money. On weekdays, he shows up at 7 a.m. at Ford Motor Co.’s Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne, signs in, and then starts working — on a crossword puzzle. Pool hates the monotony, but the pay is good: more than $31 an hour, plus benefits.

“We just go in and play crossword puzzles, watch videos that someone brings in or read the newspaper,” he says. “Otherwise, I’ve just sat.”

Pool is one of more than 12,000 American autoworkers who, instead of installing windshields or bending sheet metal, spend their days counting the hours in a jobs bank set up by Detroit automakers and Delphi Corp. as part of an extraordinary job security agreement with the United Auto Workers union.

“Extraordinary” doesn’t even begin to cover it. I doubt that other workers in the United States get such a sweetheart of a deal. But, it is the rest of the United States that pays for this program in the form of higher priced cars.

More:

Detroit automakers declined to discuss the programs in detail or say exactly how much they are spending, but the four-year labor contracts they signed with the UAW in 2003 established contribution caps that give a good idea of the size of the expense.

According to those documents, GM agreed to contribute up to $2.1 billion over four years. DaimlerChrysler set aside $451 million for its program, along with another $50 million for salaried employees covered under the contract. Ford, which also maintained responsibility for Visteon Corp.’s UAW employees, agreed to contribute $944 million.

Delphi pledged to contribute $630 million. In August, however, Delphi Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert S. “Steve” Miller said the company spent more than $100 million on its jobs bank program in the second quarter alone.

“Can we keep losing $400 million a year paying for workers in the jobs bank and $400 million a year on operations? No, we cannot deal with that indefinitely,” Miller said in a recent interview with The Detroit News. “We can’t wait until 2007.”

Steve Miller got it right. Has Detroit learned any lessons from this? Maybe some small ones. The jobs bank was cut in 2007 under a collective bargaining agreement with GM, but it was not done away with.

Given that the Big Three are going to the Feds begging for a bailout, it was obviously too little, too late.

You can access the complete article on-line here:

Jobs Bank Programs — 12,000 Paid Not To Work
Bryce G. Hoffman
The Detroit News
October 17, 2005

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2 Responses

  1. [...] Thus, the union bosses like Ron Gettelfinger would lose their large salaries and would have to come up with really good explanations about things like why the new owners have to pay workers for not working. [...]

  2. I recently read Steve Miller’s book The Turnaround Kid. I am very interested to hear what he has to say.

    I liked the post-scripts at the end. Has he been interviewed anywhere during the course of the Senate Banking Committee meetings over the Bail-out question?

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