It Couldn't Happen Here: Russia Autoworkers Paid to Do Nothing

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
it couldn t happen here russia autoworkers paid to do nothing

The New York Times‘ headline writer offers a piercing glimpse into the obvious: “Russian Auto Bailout Protects Jobs, Not Efficiency.” Remind me again how ANY bailout improves efficiency? Oh right: federally-funded union buyouts get rid of excess workers and facilities at the taxpayers’ expense, leaving fewer workers on the books—although adding to the automakers’ debt mountain. But that’s OK, ’cause when they file for Chapter 11, all that goes away. Da? Well, that’s not the way in works in Russia. In Russia, the government “loans” their domestic automakers billions (trillions) of rubles and . . . that’s it. I’ll be white this time, Boris. [NB: the above picture was taken in 1999.] The Gray Lady links cause and effect.

“The factory is our wet nurse,” Denis N. Makarov, a clerk in the factory office, said. “We have nothing else. If it stops, the whole town will be out on the streets. We all understand this.”

Still, Timofey G. Bushuyev, 59, a sheet metal worker, said he understood the factory’s troubles last year when he bought a new Lada only to discover the horn and heater did not work and the belts squeaked.

State run car companies suck? Who’d a thunk? More to the point, who cares?

But even the unions, used to believing the worst [ED: best?] of management, say layoffs are inconceivable here.

“It would become a political issue for this city and this country,” Andrei A. Lyapin, regional coordinator of the Interregional Trade Union of Automotive Workers, said in an interview. “They will print enough money to pay these people.”

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4 of 8 comments
  • Psarhjinian Psarhjinian on Apr 07, 2009

    The Russians are honest about it. No disguising language about job banks or suchlike, just outright welfare to keep the local economies going. There's some validity to this, especially if you're expecting things to turn around. High jobless numbers pretty much ensure a problematic recovery. This isn't, necessarily, a bad thing. The problem with this kind of thing is that it's often coupled with a lack of performance management. It's one thing to keep people on with the intention of boosting the net economy; it's another to avoid canning people who deserve it.

  • Dolo54 Dolo54 on Apr 07, 2009

    At least they're playing chess.

  • RedStapler RedStapler on Apr 07, 2009

    At the GM parts warehouse I serviced as a driver the loaders would read magazines or watch movies on portable DVD players on their 20-40% work rule protected downtime.

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Apr 08, 2009

    Psar, if they are being paid to sit around, would the people fired really be the ones who weren't good workers, or would it be the ones that weren't popular for some reason? Without pressure to succeed, there really can't be any proper measurement or improvement. I suppose COULD happen that Lada might start making great cars, but what I think is more likely is that since they cannot fail, they will never really succeed.