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I’ve mentioned contracts a lot, without explaining much about them.  I’ve dealt with labor contracts most of my life, so I forget most people never encounter them.  The first issue is recognition.  The company recognizes the union and agrees to deduct dues from the employees’ paychecks.  The union agrees provisions not covered in the contract or Federal labor laws is to be set by the company.  In other words, as long as the company abides by the contract and by law, it is allowed to set any rules it deems necessary.  An example would be the company rule that anyone caught steeling will be dismissed.  The penalty for theft of company property is not covered in the contract or set by Federal labor law, so this is a company rule.

Wages, of course, are set by the contract.  Medical benefits are defined, also.  When I first started all of my medical expenses were covered.  That was very good.  But as medical expenses have gone up, the employees’ have paid more and more of their own expenses, and what is covered has been more and more restricted, and which doctors and hospitals we can use has also been more and more restricted.  There seems no end to this spiral.  When Obomacare first started, there was fear all medical coverage obtained through employers would be dropped.  That hasn’t happened because companies still need to attract quality employees, and one way of doing that is by offering good medical coverage.  Now medical coverage was different than other items in the contract.  Everything was set in stone three years at a time with each contract – except our contributions for our medical insurance.  The company had no way of knowing how much the cost of medical insurance was likely to go up each year, so although the coverage couldn’t be changed during the life of the contract, how much the employees had to contribute for that coverage could.  So every January 1st we learned how much more we were going to have to pay for our medical insurance.  You never heard such moaning and groaning, as if it was the company’s fault hospitals were charging $500 for a visit to the emergency room.  So we have gotten less and less medical coverage for more and more money.  Fact of life.

Vacations and holidays are set in each contract.  With Brighton the employees who had worked there the longest were elligeable for 6 weeks vacation – I’m not sure what the required years were, I think it was 25.  Trinity did away with this.  The most vacation you could have were 4 weeks.  Holidays have basically remained the same:  Good Friday, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, two days off for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Day, New Years Eve and Day.  There have been some additions and subtractions.  We had President’s Day off for a while.  We also have our birthdays off with Enerfab.

We have strict rules concerning overtime.  The company can assign overtime as needed.  That is agreed upon in the contract.  But the company has abided by self-imposed rules.  It won’t schedule more than 12 hours a day.  And it won’t schedule work on Sunday.  Or on holiday weekends.  That doesn’t mean it won’t ask for more overtime.  But if anyone works more than 12 hours a day or on Sunday, it is strictly voluntary.  The scheduling of overtime probably has caused more problems than anything else in the contract.  Some people will work as much as possible.  So arguments spring up on who is scheduled or asked for overtime and who is not.  I don’t even understand all the rules about this.  But basically, if you are performing a task during the week that needs to also be done on Saturday and Sunday, then you must be the person scheduled for Saturday and the first person asked to volunteer for Sunday.  Everyone agrees that is fair.  But in practice it gets thorny.  What if the machine an operator is brought in to operate on overtime breaks down?  Does the company send him home?  Not fair to the employee.  Does the company assign him busy-work that it doesn’t really need done, such as sweeping the floor, and pay him time and a half, or double-time for Sundays.  Not fair to the company.  The logical solution would be to assign him to another task that needs to be done, only the need wasn’t so dire as to require overtime.  That way the employee gets to work the hours he was expecting and had planned for, while the company gets something worthwhile done for their overtime expense.  But what of the employee who had performed that job all week and was not scheduled or asked to work overtime?  Is it fair to him?  That’s just a hint of all the complications that can arise from the assignment of overtime.  Money is life, and life should be fair.

Discussing contracts has become more involved than I thought, so I’ll continue on another post.

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