Saturday, June 9, 2012

Cat Raises The Joliet Stakes by Threatening to Hire Replacement Workers

Threatening to hire replacement workers for strikers is hardly ever intended to be a permanent solution to a company's labor dispute.  It's an escalation of the battle, pure and simple. Another sign that the company is digging in and prepared to continue the dispute for a long, long time.

That said, the replacement worker threat represents an effective way to up the ante in an effort to get the serious attention of both the union and its membership.

That seems to be what's happening in the ongoing Caterpillar strike situation now. Cat to hire replacements for Joliet plant has the story:

"At odds with striking machinists at its Joliet plant, Caterpillar Inc. plans to advertise for replacement workers Sunday.
The 780 workers from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers have been on strike since May 1 after turning down two proposals.
Caterpillar management said the company’s second proposal that included a $1,000 signing bonus would remain open until Sunday. If not ratified by then, the company stated its position will revert back to the terms of the “last, best and final offer” made April 27.
Caterpillar has kept the Joliet facility open, using its own salaried workers to continue production at the plant.
Spokesman Jim Dugan said the ads for replacement workers are part of the company’s plan to counter the work stoppage.

“At this point, our offer is on the table, and we are focused on taking our contingency plan to the next level as we believe we have exhausted the negotiations process.

“Our proposal provides the Joliet facility the ability to remain competitive over the long run. As for next steps, among other things, we will be advertising for temporary replacement workers this weekend in Chicago area papers,” . . . .

“This is part of that longer term contingency plan that we have in the event of a longer strike,” Dugan said.
While not indicating the number of Caterpillar employees from Peoria and other locations working in Joliet, Dugan said: “Caterpillar support and management employees, (which includes engineers, managers, supervisors, former assemblers and others), along with contract workers and a growing number of line crossers, continue to produce components at Joliet to satisfy our customers.

“As we have indicated before, this work force is exceeding expectations and has found a number of process and efficiency improvements since the strike started,” he said.
Union official Steve Jones could not be reached for a comment about the company’s plan to advertise for replacement workers. In a previous interview, Jones said Caterpillar’s contract offer froze wages, raised health care costs and reduced seniority rights at a time when the company was making record profits.
Dugan noted that the average wage for tier one employees, those with more experience, at the Joliet plant averaged $55,000 a year, not counting overtime and night shift premiums.

“Everyone’s working overtime — we’re having a record-breaking year,” he said, suggesting that many workers had been making considerably more.
Tier two workers, morerecent hires, were averaging just more than $36,000 annually, said Dugan, noting that the average doesn’t include items such as overtime, incentive pay and the 401(k) match."

Summing Up

{Please see our post of May 30 titled "UPDATE ... No Surprise At Caterpillar ... Union Rejects Offer" for background and the likelihood that workers will be the only ones who will have suffered needlessly and experienced substantial financial loss after all this strife ends.} 

Here's my guess as to what's happening now. Cat calls this a "contingency plan" for "temporary replacements." The company also points out that employees are well paid and missing considerable overtime pay as a result of being on strike.

It's a busy year and Cat wants its workers to know that the Union doesn't have the leverage in this situation. It says negotiations have essentially ended. The plant is operating effectively, and the company is willing to dig in for the long haul. It's decision time, in other words. Game over.

In my mind, the Union should quickly find a way to somehow save face and call off the strike. It owes that to its members. The Cat employees --- not the union and not the company --- are the ones who are and will continue to suffer enormous economic hardship for the strike's duration.

Let's all hope that cooler heads prevail and the employees vote to accept Cat's offer (albeit slightly improved as a face saving gesture for union leaders) sometime real soon. The longer the employees wait, the more they'll lose. And for nothing.

So it's time for the IAM officials to simply tell its members the facts of life, so everybody can get on with their lives. If the employees don't want to work at Caterpillar, that's their prerogative. If they do, however, it's going to be for something very close to what they were offered before striking on May 1.

And as for what the employees have lost already, that's in the past. Suck it up, move forward and know better next time. Cut your losses, in other words.

Union officials are supposedly in a fiduciary capacity to Caterpillar employees. If they'd act that way, the strike would end now. But if the games go on, emotions take over and the strike contunues much longer, the employees will suffer even more. That's unnecessary and costly, too.

My advice to the company; Look for some little minimal concession to allow the IAM to get out of the corner and which will encourage them to help get the striking employees back to work asap or sooner. 

My advice to the union; Do the right thing, tell the employees it's about as good as it's going to get, and that they can vote to return to work without the IAM recommending or pressuring them to do otherwise.

My advice to the employees; Go back to work, earn lots of money and enjoy the summer with your families.

My advice to all three parties; Don't hold a grudge. Work together for the good of all concerned.

Finally, all three parties should remember that there is no "I" in team. And that they're all on the same team.

So work together to beat up on the real global competition --- and not on each other.

Thanks. Bob.

No comments:

Post a Comment