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Management

Less Pay for More Work

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I’ve always felt that a top collision technician has more knowledge and responsibility than any mechanic, so why do insurance companies pay dealer mechanic shops $75 and up per hour?

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What’s a collision technician? He’s a painter, a sculptor (body work), a welder (three different types: arc, MIG, gas), a fabricator, an upholster, an electrician, a suspension specialist, a frame/unibody expert and last – but not least – a mechanic. In fact, with the proper equipment, the car would never have to leave the shop for alignments, to reset lights, etc.

But can a mechanic do what a collision expert can do? No, but the shop they work for gets $77 per hour. If a mechanic doesn’t fix a car correctly, what can happen? The car dies or runs poorly. Compare that to a collision tech.

If he doesn’t correctly fix the car, an accident can mean injury or death. It must be nice to be a mechanic. The computer tells you what’s wrong with the cars. But does a computer tell us how to tint a bad color?

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Bottom line is that mechanical work is easy most of the time. You just replace things – bolt on, bolt off. It may be time consuming, but it’s easy. Meanwhile, we’re cutting off quarters, putting them back on, pulling unibodies (not replacing) and trying to do the impossible task of producing a perfect paint job (without rubbing because if we have to rub, it’s a losing procedure) – all while paying for the 30k frame machine, the 65k spraybooth, etc., on only $38 to $40 an hour.

If you bring any car with a mechanical problem to my shop, we’ll fix it. If you bring a collision job to a mechanical shop, they won’t know the first thing to do.

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Even plumbers and electricians get $75 per hour on an insurance loss, and they have nothing to justify getting that labor rate over us. What’s their biggest expense? Most work out of their homes, and the most expensive tool they use is a pipe wrench or a test light. Any good collision technician can do a plumber’s job, but can he do ours? No. It’s no wonder everyone’s leaving our industry. You can be a helper for a plumber or electrician and make more money – and it’s easier work.

But this isn’t about [putting down] mechanics, plumbers or electricians. It’s about what we know, how much we don’t get compensated for it and how other professions know less than us yet get more from the same insurance company. Enough is enough.

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Scott Saal
SBH Collision and Glass III
Deer Park, N.Y.

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