Monday, December 15, 2008

All the shelter from the storm, and not an inch to retreat

Last week it was decreed that my shift would be assigned every unsheltered vehicle in the fleet, despite an idle abundance of closed-cab tractors, because somebody with an office and a college degree presumed to carve up what had previously been a "first come, first serve" distribution as practiced by employees. I tell you: if ever you should like to introduce inefficiencies into a system, just establish a hierarchy where decisions are made exclusively by those who are not affected by them -- especially when it means the difference between freezing one's ass off part of the time versus all of the time.

In this case, the cost to be paid was a shift full of pissed-off employees, who variously did not comply, cursed management, and plotted revenge. Unfortunately, as much as we may have "third-party" representation, we do not have a union: we are not in the practice of formulating our own responses to the day-to-day issues that may not be covered by contract language. Thus, we have bitch sessions and individuals acting out in ways that invite disciplinary action -- and of course the ever-ready threat of calling in our "shop steward," who just acts as messenger.

In this case, the shop steward successfully appealed to our immediate managers, who are seasoned enough to know their own self-interest when they see it. But they could easily have pursued a hard line, and punished dissenters with impunity, since I am confident they are free to allocate their equipment any which way they choose. As workers in their "employ" and on their property, our rights to fairness or even consideration are confined to whatever words are recorded in our collective bargaining agreements, or in workplace regulation -- and that is only if the government has any interest in enforcing them. As always, people are best served by learning to how to defend themselves directly.

No comments: