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Guest editorial: An anonymous mechanic asks who got a cost of living raise this year

Published March 21, 2018

Editor's note: This anonymous guest editorial first appeared in PBMA Mechanics Minute, a weekly newsletter from the Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association. You can subscribe to the newsletter at probma.org/newsletter-archive.

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So ... who got my cost of living wage increase this year? Was it the landlord who raised the shop rent by more than the rate of inflation? Was it the VIP who got discounts on high ticket items and then made fun of his friends for paying full retail price? Was it the customers who were rewarded with free installation when purchasing a pair of tires at MSRP, and the profit made on the tires was less than the cost of the labour given away? Was it the customer who bought a defective bike computer with a 25% margin at 15% off, and then required 6 hours of troubleshooting before the supplier would issue a return authorization? Was it the industry employee who sold a current-model EP bike at below retailer cost to a customer who had previously purchased 5 bikes over the past 10 years at full price in the same shop? Was it the hidden costs of implementing the new point-of-sale system? Was it the manufacturer's new direct-to-consumer closeout site that rendered a big chunk of inventory unsellable? Was it the "customer" who repeatedly called asking for technical advice and estimates, and then bought the groupset online?

I have no idea what combination of events resulted in my employer not offering me an automatic cost-of-living raise. This year I decided that I would rather answer recruiting emails from other shops than ask. I get a lot of offers, and I decided I just didn't feel like initiating the conversation with my manager about why my work is worth less to him this year than it was last year, despite the fact that I had never received any negative feedback about my performance. I decided that I'd rather work for someone who knows what milestones need to be met in order to be able to give employees raises, and who is willing to communicate that information to the employees.

I could live with not getting a cost-of-living raise in lean years, if my employer had the decency to call me into his office to tell me that he appreciates my work, but there's no money for a raise this year because things are tough, and that he needs my help executing a plan that will result in everybody getting raises next year... or that he needs my help coming up with ways to make the shop the specific amount of profit that he knows we need to earn in order to give everybody raises.

Perhaps he could show his appreciation by offering another kind of new low-cost benefit, or incentive, in lieu of a raise. How about a well defined productivity bonus, commission on sales of dead stock, a better work schedule, paid PBMA membership (which happens to include access to a wide variety of employee discounts), paid training opportunities (in my area, the government gives small business grants for training), exclusive access to a demo bike, use of the shop vehicle, better prices on employee purchases, group grocery buying club or gym membership, paid vacation in the off-season, flexibility to take time off to work paid races, industry demos or charity rides, etc, etc...

Most mechanics truly want their employer's business to thrive. We show a lot of solidarity and respect for the struggles of the small business owners who employ us, and we make a lot of sacrifices in order to be able to work in this industry. Being fair and organized, showing us recognition of our labour and our sacrifices, and treating us as partners in the creation of our working conditions is the least our employers can do in return.

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