Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2004   by CARS Magazine

Mad As Hell

July's anonymous letter touches a raw nerve with technicians

July’s anonymous letter from a Canadian tech expressing his disgust with pay and working conditions hit a raw nerve with many readers. The following two letters are typical of the response from technicians across Canada. — Jim Anderton

Dear Jim:

The Tech that wrote about “falling incomes” has a very valid point. I am an ex Tech, now Service Manager, and have seen many changes over the last 15 years, a lot for the worse. In my opinion, wages sure have not kept pace with inflation, more so in this trade than in others. Warranty times have been trimmed over the last few years to laughable lows. Biggest reason for this? Techs don’t stand up for themselves!!! When was the last time you saw a big demonstration of unhappy Techs?? The writer makes a point of mentioning assembly line workers. Why do they get paid so much more?? Because they are union. They don’t like what they get, they strike. Try striking at a Dealer and see what you get … shown the door. Until everyone stands up and won’t take it anymore, it WON’T change. The same should go for Dealer owners, they should stand up to manufacturers and tell them they won’t stand for these nonsense warranty times anymore. Nope, they just smile and take it. Same with the Techs. I have several friends that are in other trades (steel workers/pipe fitters/electricians), and they have great benefit packages (what’s that??), get paid more than Techs, and have to know WAY less. Guess what? They are all union. Do I like unions? NO!! Do I want to be in a union? NO!! But its looking more and more like this will be the only way it’s ever going to get any better. Don’t get me wrong, I work for a great company, but this whole trade needs a few major changes, and it needs them fast.


Another Ontario Tech

Editor Jim Anderton replies:

There’s no question that unionized environments like auto manufacturing offer workers better pay and benefits than similar non-union automotive shops. But how would you organize 30,000 shops? The decentralized nature of our industry makes unions a pretty unwieldy instrument for backing up wage demands. Check out my “rant” on page six for more thoughts on this issue.

Dear Editor:

I am writing this letter in response to your July “Rant’ and to the letter appearing in your July issue written by a fellow technician. I started my apprenticeship in 1986, have been licensed since 1989 and also hold six ASE certifications. I have never worked for a dealer; all of my experience has been with independent shops. I have also never worked on a flat rate pay system, instead I have always worked for a salary. I have been with my present employer for 13 years. In that time I have seen only 2 pay increases and both of them had to be asked for. Our shop door rate has increased by over $30 per hour since I started. We technicians saw basically none of it. What percentage of the door rate should technicians be paid? For years I thought that the industry standard was one-third of the door rate. It would appear that this is not the case.

The fact that people with our skills and abilities are lower middle class wage earners is disgusting. What’s even more disgusting is that shop owners can charge $80 per hour labour rates for our skills and abilities (not to mention the fact that we use our own tools) and only pay us $20 per hour. Instead of worrying about the lack of young people getting into the trade, there should be more worry about keeping the highly skilled veterans of the trade from leaving. I still love cars, I still enjoy fixing them, but I’m really tired of being broke. Now I’m in my 40’s, too old to start a new career and too worn out and fed-up to continue with this one.


An Ontario technician

Editor Jim Anderton replies:

This shop owner clearly has no idea how to manage his operation. One of two things is happening here: the owner is simply exploiting his staff in the hope that they will be productive and quality-conscious enough to avoid shoddy work and unhappy customers, or he’s unable to pay his staff more because the shop isn’t profitable enough. Either case spells out a business in trouble. My suggestion? Find another place to work. They’re not all like this, and a better shop not only pays better but is easier on the morale. Getting wages up over the whole industry, however, is a real problem. Check out my “rant” on page six.

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