From our source “JH” comes a curious tale, and one perhaps completely un-reported in the US auto media: Fisker’s controversial, possibly US-funded Karma assembly center had ground to a halt, with “about 400″ uncompleted Karmas sitting outside. It turns out that the UAW isn’t the only group of union workers out there who are willing to strike. Were they killing the golden goose, or just asking for a fair share of the egg?
This report of a 32,000-person strike led by two metalworkers’ unions contains one entry of interest to American automotive enthusiasts: Valmet Automotive. This company, once famed for producing perhaps the nicest-quality AKM assault rifle clone on the planet, (Yes, yes, some of you enjoy the Egyptian MAK, you’re wrong, hush up now) had been repurposed at the end of the Cold War for automobile assembly. If you own a Porsche Boxster:
- I feel your pain. I really do. I have one, too. It’s like watching a toaster for the bread to pop up, except the “toaster” is a $61,400 vehicle with a hilariously-short warranty and the “bread” is a $12,500 engine failure.
- It might have been assembled in Finland by Valmet! OMFG! It turns out that the magical excellence-producing gnomes of Zuffenhausen didn’t all hold a pagan seance around your car at the end of the
roboticized assembly linecraftman’s shop after all! (If the 11th digit of your Boxster VIN is a “U”, congratulations! You’re Finnish. If it’s an “S”, you’re German. If the VIN begins with “W09″, you own a Ruf. That’s awesome.)
Porsche’s Valmet adventure is over, a casualty of lower sports-car demand around the globe, but for the nice people at Fisker, it has just begun. The infamous “overseas assembly plant” discussed in many a blog post these past few weeks was formerly the Valmet Automotive facility. The employees are mostly unionized former Valmet peeps. And they have been striking since the 21st.
The heart of the issue?
The major discord was over a 4.3% wage increase for two years, an amount Finnish social partners agreed to on 13 October. Metal and technical employers, under the auspices of the Federation of Finnish Technology Industries, or Teknologiateollisuus, sought to structure that pay rise whereby many metalworkers and white-collar workers would not get the full amount. The new proposal given by Lonka last night, 23 October, proposes that it be granted across the board to all 200,000 workers in the country’s metal and engineering sector.
I’m not sure what a “Finnish social partner” is, but I’m pretty sure that it would warm the cockles of Murilee Martin’s socialist heart.
Our inside sources say that the strike is effectively completed and that Karma production will resume ASAP. It was a minor blip that future Karma owners won’t ever notice or think about… but it does remind all of us here in the North American autoblogging world of one thing: Just because we hear all the details of “American” manufacturers’ woes in the Wall Street Journal doesn’t meant that we’re getting the full story about what happens elsewhere. This would have been a front-page story if the Fisker plant had been in the United States. Sometimes, the “known unknowns” are really unknown. Or something like that.