Shop owners ‘cautiously optimistic’ as Auto Body Commission holds final meeting

Boston University Statehouse Program

Published: 04/10/2022 21:04:35

Modified: 04/10/2022 21:03:24

BOSTON — Representatives from the auto body and insurance industries have been asked to recommend “alternative solutions” as a chance to break the deadlock over the issue of low labor rates at the final meeting carried out by the Special Commission on bodywork labor rates.

Members met at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School, a vocational school in Marlborough, to assess whether low labor rates are deterring young technicians from entering the trade.

“The site visit underscores how important it is that we do something about this business that appears to be dying,” said Rep. Bruce Ayers, D-Quincy. “Compared to 15 or 20 years ago, these young people today are not focusing on this trade because they realize that the amount of money they have to spend on tools and the time ‘they have to devote to it, once they graduate, they can just go for it. in another field and earn a lot more money.

After the site visit, the members of the commission gathered in a room on the school premises for a final meeting.

“Sometimes if there’s a problem, there’s all kinds of blame. I just hope that this committee that is informed and responsible can come up with some sort of solution,” said commission chairman Rep. James Murphy, D-Weymouth.

It was the last scheduled meeting conducted by the select committee, which will now begin its deliberations and issue a report on Bill H.1111 before the June 30 deadline. The proposed bill seeks to adjust labor rates to the rate of inflation. However, the increase will not be immediate but over a “corrective period” of two years.

The alternative solutions requested by the president were meant to be a chance for the bodywork industry and insurance companies to find a mutual solution before time runs out and lawmakers have to intervene.

“Our #1 (alternative) solution is to pay us an amount equal, no more, to what consumers and insurers are already paying at the mechanical shop for the same process, which is north of $100 (the hour),” Evangelos said. “Lucky” Papageorg, Executive Director of the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers.

The body industry has offered two other alternatives: either the current labor rates are increased over a corrective period of three years instead of two, or they are increased immediately by a value adjusted according to the inflation of $33 an hour.

“What we want is what we originally submitted, which was Bill H.1111. But we are responding to the president’s request to give him other options to consider,” Papageorg added.

Although the collision industry has actively participated in the negotiations, insurers have not yet done so.

Thomas Ricci, the owner of the Hudson-based Body and Pain Center, knows the pattern. He recalled a similar negotiation organized in 2009 where insurance and bodywork representatives had to meet in a room and find a solution.

“Two days before this meeting, I received a note that said, ‘We will not be discussing labor rates.’ So here we are, some 14 years later, and there’s no guarantee they’ll ever talk about it,” Ricci said. “The problem is that we have already done it. We continue to come to the table. At the meeting the other day, there was a lot of discussion within the auto body industry, but not a word from the insurance companies, not a word.

“They (insurance companies) will never be ready to negotiate,” said Craig Winnie, the owner of King Autobody in Northampton who has run his business for 48 years and hopes for change but “cautiously”[insurancecompanies)aren’tevergoingtobereadytonegotiate”saidCraigWinnietheownerofKingAutobodyinNorth[lescompagniesd’assurance)neserontjamaisprêtesànégocier”adéclaréCraigWinnielepropriétairedeKingAutobodyàNorthamptonquidirigesonentreprisedepuis48ansetespèreunchangementmais”avecprudence”[insurancecompanies)arenevergoingtobereadytonegotiate”saidCraigWinnietheownerofKingAutobodyinNorthamptonwhohasrunhisbusinessfor48yearsandishopingforchangebut“withcaution”

As the deadline for the commission’s report approaches, members of the auto body industry support the bill that promises changes, but aren’t confident it will pass.

“Bearing in mind the track record, the (labour rates) will likely remain the same as they always have been,” said Lisa Russell, general manager of Acme Automotive Center in Northampton. “Even if they decide to raise it, it won’t reach the salary of other states.”

Aryan Rai writes for the Boston University Statehouse Program Gazette.

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