GM's "Orwellian" Work Rules Gone? Really?

GM's "Orwellian" Work Rules Gone? Really?

GM's "Orwellian" Work Rules Gone? Really?

A mostly political weblog.
June 4 2009 4:17 AM

GM's "Orwellian" Work Rules Gone? Really?



's David Leonhardt


comic overoptimism

, but in at least one respect seems to share it. He asserts that, as part of the bailout/bankruptcy deal ,

Orwellian work rules that sapped productivity and creativity have been removed.  



. This is what looks like the relevant provision on work rules:

Work Practices  

The National Parties discussed locations that haven't reached new local agreements and those that have ratified local agreements, but haven't achieved General Motors' 2007 competititve operating agreement rating of ninety-three (93) percent or more. Those locations that currently have ratified local agreements that meet the rating will not be subject to the following:  

As soon as practicable, but within thirty (30) days of ratification, the National Parties will assist and engage the locations with the implementation of modifications, comparable to General Motors' 2007 competitive operating benchmark, needed to achieve a minimum ninety three (93) percent rating. Additionally, the aforementioned locations efforts to achieve the goal will be completed as soon as possible, but no later than December 31, 2009.  

The National Parties will be responsible to review the progress of each location every thirty (30) days to ensure compliance by the completion date.

Maybe all these words have meaning to insiders that's not apparent to outsiders. But it sure looks like 1)  Some union locals are holdouts in GM's campaign to get rid of inefficient work rules. (The power of union locals, even in the face of the UAW national leadership, has always been a problem when it comes to streamlining work practices); 2) Under the new agreement, the work rules haven't "been removed." Rather, the parties have pledged to complete the tooth-pulling process of negotiating their demise by the end of the year. It's a target, not a fait accompli. And what happens if that target isn't reached (as, apparently, the earlier targets weren't reached)? The deal doesn't say. ...  

P.S.: Note that the agreement doesn't commit plants that have achieved the 93% "rating" to making further improvements. One big secret of Toyota's success, of course, is that its factories are continually looking for "modifications" that further increase productivity, without worrying about whether those modifications violate "local agreements." Standing pat at 93%, whatever it means, doesn't seem like the way to beat Toyota.  

P.P.S.: Leonhardt also writes:

G.M. cars haven't been as good as their rivals. If you've ever experienced the joy of being told that your rental car is a Toyota Corolla rather than a Chevrolet Impala , you know this.

I dunno. I think I'd rather have an Impala , assuming costs are equal. It's a bigger, more luxurious car. It's not going to break down during a brief rental! It's just not a car you'd buy for yourself. ... If Leonhardt had compared the Corolla with its actual same-size GM competitor, the unpleasant Chevy Cobalt, he'd have an unassailable point. ... 1:25 A.M.