ANGRY MECHANIC PAGE III
RAMIFICATIONS: We are starting to see some major problems surface in our trade as we have left the working conditions deteriorate like we have. We have technicians leaving the trade in droves. You probably know fellow workers who have said enough is enough and gone to work in a different field.
We cannot keep new people in the trade because shops try to get young people out of trade schools that just paid $20,000 to $35,000 to work for $6.00 to $12.00 an hour. That is after they have been told how much they can make in the field. Trade schools telling these poor S.O.B.s that they will be making $50,000 to $100,000 and full benefits. After getting into the shop environment and seeing the real trade and learning flatrate first hand they realize they can make the same or more flipping burgers or stocking shelves. If we as technicians see or work with younger people getting into this trade, tell them the truth, encourage them while they are still young to go back to school and learn something else as a trade. Before they get married, buy a house and go in debt to the tool guys like I have watched happen over the years.
We have a shortage of technicians out there. I have watched shops run help wanted ads for months and get no real replies. I have seen ads for up to $5000 dollars (US) if you stay a year. A couple of shops are even throwing in a demo car. I just read in my local paper that Auto Technician/Mechanics are going to be in the top ten needed professions for the next ten years. That there will be a need for about 40,000 new technicians every year for the next ten years per this report. They state due to vehicles getting more complicated and the loss of technicians there will be this great need. That in less than three years 70% of vehicles in for warrant work will be in for electrical/software problems. The article did not bother to mention why there is this need. Could it be the media does not want to bite the hands that feed them all their advertising dollars?
I have read in the newspapers and in some journals that it is so bad in some areas that shops are actually going to trade schools and vocational schools actively trying to recruit upcoming graduating students to come to work for them. They offer X amount of money to get starter boxes and tools. They have sign on bonuses if they stay a year. But when they get a taste of flatrate and get 18 hour paychecks or 30 hours minimal guarantee after working 48 the deal quickly loses its luster. When they get thrown under a bus with jobs that are over their heads and left to sink or swim because this industry and its pay plan does not leave room for apprenticeships. We can't have this young person paired with an older skilled technician to learn more than the basic skills they teach at trade schools. This does not compute in the spreadsheets of the manufacturers.
I saw on a television news show that out in the Midwest they are using prisoners that are not in on a major crime. They get out of prison during the day on work release/training to fill in the shortage. They interviewed the owner of this dealership and of course he loved it. They are dropped of every day at work so he knows they will be there, they are not going to look someplace else for work. He is getting free workers and money back from the state for participating in the program. So what if the guy who stole your car a couple months ago is now repairing it.
I have over the last year and a half, read about fifty or so of e-mails from technicians that live in border states, such as Texas and Southern California, that are suffering from shop owners who fire technicians for no reason other than to try to increase their profits or to use the threat off firing them, if they try to ask for more money or benefits, by hiring illegal aliens. I have read so many of your e-mails on how the shop owners use the illegal aliens even though their skills are very sub-par to try to repair customer's vehicles with terrible results. Through no schooling on today's vehicles with complicated systems to language problems trying to use manuals and on line data bases written in English. They are given customer cars that they should not be working on that end up getting destroyed. But in the end the customer loses as the shop owners lie to them telling them stories on how the repair job turned out to be far worse than they first thought or through creative writing passing on the damage they created by putting this unskilled technician on the job, by screwing the manufacturer on warranty claims. Again the customer loses as these costs are passed on in the cost of their next car. Again it comes back to so many of these shop owners feeling that any monkey can fix these vehicles.
But how do most shops in the industry handle this shortcoming? By making us work 10 to 12 hour days. This is getting even more of the remaining technicians to move on. But from what I just mentioned from everything above in this page. The main problem is that the manufacturers to shop owners have it their heads that we are not skilled technicians like electricians or welders but unskilled grease monkeys that are a dime a dozen. Well in the next ten years I feel that some of these people are in for a real rude wake up call. When the vehicles that they sell are sitting in shops that are pretty much empty and the ones who are in these shops don't have a clue on how to fix them!
N.A.D.A.: If you work in a dealership environment you realize that there is no worse enemy to a technician than these pencil pushing accounting bastards. You're guaranteed every time your owner or manager attends one of these meetings things are going to go downhill at your shop unless your owner or manager has a good feeling of what it's like out in the shop or moved his way up from the shop and has the sense to know not to believe the hype and lies.
God help you if your owner/manager is strictly a businessman or a salesman who hasn't a clue. They are the ones who'll buy into everything these guys say and make things miserable for you. When these spreadsheet touting idiots who spend all day in fantasy land on their computer start telling your dealership how much profit every square inch of your shop should be making in both parts and service, the techs are going to have problems.
They'll tell you that for every phone in the business, based on your geographical location, you should be getting "X" number of calls per hour. I happened to have one manager a couple of years ago who knew enough not to take their "advice" as gospel for the dealership, who showed me one of N.A.D.A.'s stats that said if an auto technician isn't giving you 125% a week over the year you should get rid of him.
This organization has no idea of "real world" scenarios, only their perfect world fantasies, but they will tell your company how to squeeze every bit of profit out of the business. They'll convince them that by having the technicians work longer hours, having two shifts even though you don't have enough work for one. Plus 7 days a week for convenient hours that the service area is going to be raking in the money.
With their presentations and cute little fliers they can con the best salesman into buying into this crap in less than a day. I've been there, I've seen owners conned into extending hours which usually costs more money rather than making them more. Plus hiring more technicians than available work, because this amount of shop space should have X amount of workers. Even though everybody in the shop knew it wasn't working, it was the service advisers fault for not getting enough customers in or the managers fault because “I, the owner” have followed everything N.A.D.A. has said. Better yet the service end is supposed to make all the money to run the business and the sales of new and used vehicles will be the icing on the cake.
This organization is the scourge of all technicians working in a dealership environment. As these geeks in their virtual environment keep finding new ways "on paper" to squeeze profit out of every tick of the second hand and remember 100% is no longer enough. No matter how much experience or how good a job you do by their philosophy if you slip below 125% you're gone. There is no more pairing older techs with younger guys to pass on their experience and knowledge. That does not compute in the North American Dealer Association's equations.
The Owner starts implementing all he has learned from N.A.D.A. to make maximum profitability. Next go the technicians who do not make the hour requirements. They replace them now with cheaper, less skilled and of course, less paid workers. Now all of a sudden the CSI rating takes a dive. Long term customers do not come back. Owners solution: blame the service desk and make changes. Now customers come in looking for the people they have been dealing with for years only to find new people new to the place and that gets customers even more pissed off and CSI takes another dive. Owners solution: threaten the technicians and make them worry every day who is next, is it me? Make them question every move they make and of course in such a poisoned atmosphere productivity goes downhill. Now it is time for a new service manager and service director to try to restore CSI and profits. Meanwhile the downhill corkscrew spiral continues and the owner can't see the forest through the trees because he has his head so far up his ass believing all that he has learned from N.A.D.A.
SOLUTIONS: I feel the only way to change the course we are on is by organizing ourselves into some kind of body. I talking UNIONIZE! But what we need is our own organization that can encompass all technicians no matter if they work for one of the biggest dealerships in the country to fleet workers , independent repair shops, specialty shops, and retail shops. We need all technicians to come together and work together. We need something like a United Autoworkers of America. We have to become one voice to this Goliath of an industry.
Let's face it they all belong to their associations. They have their support groups, think tanks. They get together to chat about making more money, keep wages about the same in town and other topics (usually at our expense). We need to do the same thing.
We need to get together as technicians from all over. We need to set standards. We need to abolish the flat rate system as our way of being paid. You work forty hours you get paid forty hours. To make sure we all can get affordable benefits and insurances and retirement packages.
This is why I put these web pages together. I would like to hear your ideas and comments.
If we could become one organized group and one week just close our tool boxes and walk away. This nation would come to a screeching halt.
No cars, trucks, or buses being repaired. People with new cars stuck back at the dealerships not being repaired. Auto manufacturers phones ringing off the hook with dissatisfied customers. Auto suppliers not moving parts, fleets sitting. States not collecting inspection revenue.
We would hit this industry where it hurts them most and the only thing they really truly care about, their pockets! All the world's eyes would be on us. The government and the auto industry would have to deal with us. Their little empire over us would be at an end. They would have to deal with us not as weak individuals anymore but as a proud united union of skilled workers.