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Jalopnik coverage of mechanic’s strike offers compensation considerations for techs, owners

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Business Practices | Market Trends
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Issues behind the mechanic’s strike in Chicago might carry some lessons for collision repair technicians and owners given the extensive use of piece-rate compensation plans, and we’d encourage both parties to review an in-depth piece of strike coverage Jalopnik published Friday.

With a tech shortage making it a employee’s market, collision repair owners have a real incentive to make sure techs are happy with their compensation — but they also have to clear enough to keep the lights on and buy expensive equipment to keep up with modern cars. And with more complex and precise repairs (i.e. slower) demanded by modern vehicles, an hourly pay format like that demanded by the striking mechanics might better incentivize quality rather than speed — but of course there’s the fear that techs will slack off and fail to sufficiently produce.

As Jalopnik described one anonymous technician’s position:

His current job pays hourly rather than by jobs, since he found a boss who knew the unfair nature of the job’s pay. But that’s a rare thing to find, he said, though he thinks pay based on hours actually worked is better for the technicians—and the customers, who don’t pay for repairs done in a rushed or shortcut manner—in the long term.

The site also quotes striker Joe Schubkegel, who raised issues like favoritism in doling out piece-rate jobs and other considerations:

Schubkegel said he’s had wire jobs that took him eight hours to figure out, but only paid a half-hour of work. There’s also the issue of having to learn all of the new technology on cars or mentoring younger mechanics, which Schubkegel said do not pay because they are not repair jobs.

(Of course, before changing any pay plan, it’s a good idea to consult with a qualified HR attorney. Reading the Jalopnik piece, one can’t help but think of collision repair counsel Cory King’s cautionary lectures on compensation-related issues during industry summits.)

According to the Collision Repair Education Foundation and I-CAR’s 2016 industry snapshot, about 48 percent of the shops surveyed reported flat-rate plans.

Learn how to manage, pay techs at Repairer Driven Education

Find out strategies for retaining and paying techs from Judy Folk, Sherwin-Williams, during “Culture, Culture, Culture – Would you work in your own shop?!”; Casey Lund, Warrensburg Collision, at “Leadership: What Game Are We Playing?”; and Michael Lanza, Sherwin-Williams, by attending “Creative Compensation Solutions – How to Develop, Pay and Motivate Employees in a Team Environment.” The sessions are part of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists’ Repairer Driven Education Series Oct. 30-Nov. 3. Register here for the individual classes or the series pass package deal.

Proper documentation and estimating of not-included operations by a piece-rate shop might yield the quality customers deserve by incentivizing the shop and technician to invest the capital and time to do that necessary work.

The Database Enhancement Gateway notes that estimating service labor times generally refer to putting a mint-condition, new OEM part on a  vehicle. Much of the labor needed to properly repair a mangled post-collision vehicle is left up to the shops to determine and manually enter as not-included items. (The IPs can’t know the condition of a vehicle after each unique collision or comprehensive event, after all.) That makes the shop’s blueprint and an estimator’s thoroughness even more important for the shop and the techs.

Reading one’s P-pages closely, reviewing the Society of Collision Repair Specialists’ Complete Guide to Repair Planning and submitting or studying DEG inquiries might help a piece-rate shop and its employees be adequately compensated and also avoid the kind of tensions seen in Chicago.

More information:

“Why 2,000 Chicago Mechanics Are At War With Car Dealers”

Jalopnik, Aug. 24, 2017

Featured image: Collision repair owners and techs should consider what the optimal pay format would be, such as piece-rate or hourly. (bubaone/iStock)

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