Wonder Why American Car Manufacturers Aren't Competitive? Here's a Clue
Sheesh, this reminds me of the worst days of Great Britain
.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.
The jobs bank programs were the price the industry paid in the 1980s to win UAW support for controversial efforts to boost productivity through increased automation and more flexible manufacturing.
There's a hilarious scene in the old movie I'm Alright Jack
where the main character moves a pallet of material with a forklift, only to discover several men sitting behind it playing poker. It is explained that these men are "redundant"; their jobs were eliminated via automation, but they were not fired. They cannot be assigned to other tasks, as that would be depriving another man of a job.
The difference is that the movie took place during the golden age of socialism, when companies were thought to be the enemy of their employees. Hence every job had to be protected, even if it made the company unprofitable. Nowadays we recognize that companies have to be allowed to innovate and automate or they will be left behind in the dust of foreign firms. I'm somewhat startled to hear that this practice is still ongoing here in the US.