Among the many analyses circulating in the wake of General Motors Corp.'s bankruptcy filing are several which look at the cost of the "Government Caving on the Pension and Post Retirement (sic) Health Issues" for General Motors of Canada.
Yes, that's the title of one very detailed analysis.
I have not run the numbers, but because I trust the source, I believe the analysis to be accurate. It's conclusion: the government is on the hook for "$3 billion for the pension shortfall, $2 billion for the health trust and a half billion for the severance" and "that adds up to a TOTAL of $5.5 billion dollars."
The details are extensive, but according to the analysis, pension and post-retirement health costs account for $3,000 per vehicle today, but that number can go up and down depending on sales.
I don't think any reasonable person would argue that GM's unionized workers negotiated themselves a very good deal when GM was alive and reasonably healthy. And that is exactly what unions are supposed to do.
They don't run companies, they don't create the product plans at auto makers, they don't develop and execute the marketing plans and they don't deal with finance or government relations issues.
Unions at their core exist only to get the best possible deal for members. That's not a revelation and no one should be angry about that fact. A fact is a fact.
Now, is the CAW deal - the one in place before the GM empire began to crumble last year - is it sustainable? No, of course not. Truth is, it wasn't sustainable when the deal was done.
And should other workers whose union (or not, depending on the case) be envious of the deal GM Canada gave its unionized workers? Of course they should. It was a great deal.
Consider: GM's CAW workers were in a position to retire with full benefits at 50 years of age and 30 years of service and 60 years of age and 10 years of service without penalty, notes the analysis. Astonishingly generous by anyone's standards. One might even call it "gold-plated."
The thing is, though, this is the deal GM's management agreed to with its union. So while my mailbox is stuffed with angry, anti-union vitriol, I have yet to see an equal degree of violent, angry criticism of management - the management and the company directors who negotiated this deal.
Personally, I believe the wages and benefits the CAW managed to wring out of management are absurdly rich. That said, I do not begrudge the union for getting what it could when it sat down with management.
My point is that the CAW didn't create this agreement and adopt it all on its own. On the contrary, the deal was bargained for and agreed to in good faith. Management signed on to this. Sure, it's a sweet deal and completely unrealistic in today's world. What sensible person would argue against that position.
But it's hard to blame workers and their union representatives for arguing to retain the deal management gave them. Sure the CAW and UAW have had a good ride and now that ride is over. But the fact of the matter is, unions only get what management gives them.
Meanwhile, where are the scathing analyses of GM's management? They are hard to find. But here are a few tidbits to throw into the discussion.
Rick Wagoner, the ousted CEO, was finally fired for his failures but it took the U.S. president to finally bring him to account. Where was GM's board of directors when Wagoner and his management team were making costly blunders - negotiating these union deals, for instance?
As well, the CAW and the UAW did not put in place the failed product plan that drove GM into the ditch.
The unions did not cling to the failed eight-brand strategy that everyone except GM management and its board recognized as absurd and out of date -30 years ago.
The unions did not throw away billions buying stakes in Fiat, Isuzu, Subaru, Suzuki and Saab in a failed global alliance strategy.
Let's take one particularly egregious example and it involves Fiat, which by the way was a suitor for GM's Opel European division. What a rich irony.
GM wasted $5 billion US alone first buying a chunk of Fiat in 2000, then paying Fiat a mountain of cash to get out of a put option - an option Rick Wagoner was intimately involved in negotiating into the Fiat deal.
No worker on any assembly line ever made a $5 billion blunder with one single deal, but if any one single person is responsible for GM propping up Fiat's turnaround with $5 billion in GM money, it was Wagoner.
Of course he did not act alone, but he was the CEO at the time and was responsible for signing off on this catastrophic waste of GM money. Yet his board never held him to account, and he only paid for this and other mistakes when President Obama and others stepped into the GM morass.
Sure, sure, it's understandable that a reasonable person would get angry at workers whose generous benefits now will be partially funded by taxpayer dollars. This certainly offends me and is something that will be front and centre in my mind when I next vote.
But I also think a fair and reasonable person would say that while CAW and UAW workers have enjoyed a generous ride, incompetent management and irresponsible directors must shoulder most of the blame.