There’s increasing talk of a possible Big Three Bailout by our Federal Government. Â An interesting article was posted on the cbsnews.com website today, written byÂ CNET’sÂ Declan McCullagh:
One of the best reasons why Detroit automakers should not receive a bailout can be found in a General Motors “Jobs Bank” program that, bizarrely, pays employees not to work.
A beneficiary of that program was someone named Jerry Mellon, who worked for GM until his division merged with another in 2000 and he was no longer needed. Except for a brief period in 2001, Mellon received his full salary for not working, which reached $64,500 a year by 2006. Include benefits, and the annual cost to GM exceeds $100,000.
[…] During those six years [that Mellon didn’t work, but collected his salary], Toyota surpassed GM as the world’s largest car manufacturer, thanks to innovations like the fuel-sipping Prius. Nissan developed the GT-R, a technological marvel with a 0 to 60 time of 3.2 seconds and a lower sticker price than the Corvette ZR1. Honda kept its focus on smaller cars such as the Civic and Accord, and saw its sales continue to increase this summer while GM, Ford, and Chrysler have slid.
[…]Â The better solution is a simple one: Allow automakers to declare bankruptcy.Â
Contrary to popular belief, that will not mean the end of a company such as GM, whichÂ has indicatedit may run out of cash by the end of this year. Under Chapter 11, a bankruptcy judge will weigh the different interests of GM’s creditors, labor unions, shareholders, and so on, and the resulting company will emerge leaner and stronger. Many current customers of United Airlines, Texaco, Global Crossing, and Pacific Gas and Electric probably don’t even know that those companies once filed for Chapter 11.Â
Chapter 11 also would let a judge alter gold-plated union contracts and benefits that have hamstrung the Big Three and crippled their ability to compete against Japanese and European car makers. Toyota, Honda, and other non-Big Three manufacturers that employ over 100,000 Americans, mostly inÂ right-to-work states, have shown that they can make money building cars in the United States. The best way to keep U.S. auto workers employed in the future — tens of thousands already haveÂ lost their jobsÂ — is to make it profitable to keep them on the payroll.Â
One explanation for Washington’s haste is that while bankruptcy would alter union contracts, a bailout probably won’t.Â