Wednesday, December 10, 2008

$73 hourly salary for Big 3 production workers adds up to bad math

Most media commentary on General Motors and the Big amounts to one endless smackdown. But yesterday and today the New York Times offered quite different takes on the ailing domestic automakers. First, there was the profile of GM Vice Chairman Robert Lutz. My favorite quote from the tart-tongued Lutz:

“My sense of frustration is that all of this is hopelessly out of date,” he said. “Much of what I read and hear is reflective of the criticism that would have been legitimate of General Motors in the 1980s, but not today.”

The other piece is an admirable deconstruction of that frequently quoted "$73 an hour" that Big 3 production workers are supposed to make -- way over the $45 hourly salary that Toyota, Honda and other international automakers pay to their American workers. The biggest reason for the difference is the $15 share of the Big 3 hourly wage that covers pension payments to retirees. The internationals don't have to add that number to the wage costs of their workers because they don't have -- yet -- many thousands of retirees.

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