Machinists Union members at the former Ensign Chrysler, now Harris Victoria Chrysler, have had a tough four years. The dealership was once a leader in the Victoria area but, over the years, the business declined. In 2008, ownership transfer from local businessmen to an absentee owner who operated a chain of dealerships in Saskatchewan and Alberta. At the same time, the domestic auto industry went into meltdown. For a while, it seemed Ensign would be one of the marginal dealerships Chrysler was culling in an effort to remain solvent.
In the end, Ensign made the cut and became a dealership for the new, bailed out Chrysler. Due to the extremely difficult position of the employer found huimself in, Technicians at Ensign agreed to work under a Flat Rate system instead of the hourly pay with bonus they had enjoyed before. Flat Rate in the 60s, 70s, even 80s paid well, with a combination of reasonable book times and plentiful work. But fast forward to 2009, and the combination of impossibly low book times for warranty and a lack of retail customers took a toll a big toll on Members’ earning. Particularly grating for Techs was waiting their entire shift for work to come in the door and not getting paid a red cent until it appeared. The Techs had a weekly guarantee of 32 hours a week and that is what they lived on, 80% of their nominal wages.
It was not that the Techs’ work was anything but explemary; their efficiency rates were over 120% taken as a group, with two out of the seven over 140%. The work simply was not there and the dealership appeared to be unable to attract more.
Just before the end of the last Collective Agreement, the dealership changed hands again. Gone was the group from Saskatchewan, as the Tom Harris Group, a successful chain of five dealerships up island took the reigns. Immediately the business began to rebound as successful sales strategies were applied with vigor.
The question of the Collective Agreement was still unsettled as Tom Harris personally conducted the negotiations. Listening to the problems his employees had endured, he responded with positive proposals which helped both employee and employer. Tom Harris’s recognition of the key role of his skilled employees helped craft a satisfactory agreement for all parties.
All employees received a healthy 3% increase. Techs have returned to hourly pay, but with the potential to realize $33.00 hour, an increase of over 8% that brings them into parity with other Unionized dealerships in the city….quite a turn around! Payments for courses completed at home, the addition of Family Day and the creation of a Lube Tech classification round out the three year deal. Wage increases in the second and third year will be by the cost of living increase for British Columbia.
Members are pleased to have three years of certainty as Harris Victoria Chrysler grows back it business.