Summer in the United States is synonymous with several things: baseball, beer, barbecues, and now, the national contract talks between American autoworkers unions and Detroit's big three car makers.
While these are still a month away, there have already been some important happenings at another major player in the Detroit economy which could have some interesting ramifications for the national negotiations.
The Delphi Corporation - a huge but bankrupt parts supplier - reached an agreement with United Automobile Workers
after two long years of talking. In an example of employees and management working together to find a solution, both sides managed to walk away feeling as if they achieved victory.
For management, it meant lowering wages so that they could remain competitive with foreign suppliers and the eradication of a jobs bank that basically pays out workers when laid off.
For employees, it meant accepting a hefty wage decrease, but earning three payments (one per year) of $35,000 to make up the difference.
The jobs bank (which paid out 95% of base pay) is replaced with a deal that gives laid off workers $1,500 a month for every month worked since start of employment up to $40,000. Workers could also take a golden parachute of up to $140,000 and still keep their pensions.
In this case, both sides feel like they've come out ahead - and that's pretty much the case.
Let's hope that the Big Three will take away lessons learned during the Delphi negotiations and make sure that those who have been working hardest while on the more meager wages will be taken care of when it's time to leave the company.
It would also be nice to see similar negotiations between employees and management of big box stores. While it's not likely to happen any time soon, a boy can dream, can't he?
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