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国际贸易经典案例十一:Saturn
作者:深圳教育在线 来源:szedu.net 更新日期:2007-12-4
Employee-Management Relations
  Facing Business Challenges at Saturn
  Negotiating a Radically New Contract
  Richard LeFauve of General Motors and Donald Ephlin of the United Auto Workers (UAW) had been adversaries for years. LeFauve represented management (white collars, planners, order givers) and Ephlin represented labor (blue collars, strong backs, order takers) as they faced one another from opposite sides of the negotiating table. However, when LeFauve became president of GM's Saturn division, both men agreed that a drastic change was needed in the relationship between management and labor. Facing aggressive Japanese auto makers, both men believed that management and labor had a lot to lose unless an altogether new relationship could be forged.
  LeFauve recognized that GM was battling fierce competition. Honda, Toyota, and Nissan had aggressively entered the U.S. market, reducing GM's share to about 35 percent. Customers believed that buying GM meant they were getting less car for their money, and GM was finding it increasingly difficult to compete on cost alone. For one thing, Japanese companies could build a car in about 100 hours, including suppliers' labor. General Motors took twice as long, and LeFauve saw union work rules as one cause of low productivity. At some plants, union jobs were divided into more than 100 classifications, so an entire assembly line might be shut down while a lone electrician rewired a faulty outlet. Disagreement over employees' seniority rights, job security, and wage increases threatened successive contract negotiations as GM tried in vain to streamline production rules. LeFauve believed that changes were necessary to keep the company competitive.
  Yet Ephlin saw union members facing more than the possibility of losing market share. Employees were concerned with personal security: More than 230,000 union jobs had already disappeared because of foreign competition, and at least 83,000 more were expected to vanish as Japanese carmakers stepped up production in nonunion US. factories. Pride was also at stake. Auto plants in the United States were averaging 82 defects for every 100 cars, whereas plants in Japan averaged only 65. Union autoworkers blamed the problem on managers who were more interested in production schedules and quotas than in raising employee proficiency. Ephlin noted that Japanese autoworkers received an average of 370 hours of job training, whereas their US. counterparts received perhaps 46 hours. Ephlin believed that change was necessary to improve the skills and job security of his union members.
  As General Motors planned its Saturn Division, both LeFauve and Ephlin were facing some of the most crucial questions in their long careers. How could management persuade labor to streamline production rules for the good of the company? How could labor persuade management to look beyond purely financial goals? Most important, could management and labor become teammates instead of adversaries?
  Meeting Business Challenges at Saturn
  Saturn could be viewed as one of the most expensive and risky experiments in the history of U.S. manufacturing: $5 billion for a mile-long factory to produce a car that, as one dealer said, "drives and feels like a Honda." To Richard LeFauve and Donald Ephlin, it was the beginning of a new relationship between management and labor. Although parts of the agreement between General Motors and the United Auto Workers have, been implemented in other industries, Saturn's agreement was the first to combine so many ideas in one pact.
  Instead of the traditional boss-worker structure, managers and employees are joined into teams and committees to make decisions by consensus. These groups decide everything about Saturn's operation, including who does what job, who goes on vacation when, how to engineer component parts, how to market the car, and even the company's long-range strategy. For the first time, labor is involved in decisions concerning product, personnel, and profits. Union representatives helped choose an advertising agency and helped select which GM dealers would sell the car. Union employees are paid a salary instead of an hourly wage, and 80 percent of them-determined by seniority-cannot be laid off, except in the case of some catastrophic event. Even then, the joint management-labor committees can reduce the hours of operation or even stop production to prevent layoffs.
  For its part, the UAW agreed to streamline the production process. The key change was a reduction in job classifications from more than 100 to a maximum of 6 for production employees and up to 5 for skilled employees. This change, combined with state-of-the-art production processes and equipment, helped boost productivity. The union also agreed to an initial 20 percent cut in compensation in exchange for the salaries and management-style bonuses employees now receive. Future salary levels are decided by consensus of the Strategic Advisory Committee, the highest group of decision makers in the Saturn hierarchy, and these levels are based on the average hourly rates at all U.S. manufacturing plants, including those owned by Japanese companies. Finally, in an effort to tear down the walls between management and labor, all employees park in the same parking lots and eat in the same cafeterias.
  In contrast to the 597-page UAW contract covering all other GM operations, which must be renegotiated every three years, the 28-page Saturn agreement is known as a living document, and it never expires. However, it can be altered at any time, as long as both parties agree. Some other plants have been the scene of angry confrontations between labor and management as GM closes some factories, outsources parts production, and takes other steps to cut costs. The Saturn plant, on the other hand, has generally avoided such problems because its contract allows both sides to be flexible in dealing with issues as they arise. When falling demand for smaller cars led to production cutbacks and shrinking employee bonuses at Saturn in early 1998, a large majority of the UAW Local 1853 still voted to keep the unique contract. Shop chairman Mike Bennett said the vote reaffirms that Saturn emp1oyees are “committed to the original Saturn idea,” and that “The partnership is alive and well in Spring Hill."
  Whether the UAW will let GM negotiate a similar contract for future plants is an open question; so far, GM contracts have generally followed the pattern bargaining of the industry. Still, Saturn's success shows that union and management are capable of working together so that both benefit. These days, 6,000 Saturn employees produce about 300,000 cars a year, and the car has earned a reputation for quality. That success has both Chrysler and Ford looking carefully at the model of cooperation that the UAW and GM have established.

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