Can you unilaterally change wage payment policy?

This is a tricky question. Arbitration decisions have gone both ways on the issue. In a Pennsylvania manufacturing plant, it was a long-standing practice to distribute payroll checks on the job every Friday.

11/01/1998


This is a tricky question. Arbitration decisions have gone both ways on the issue.

In a Pennsylvania manufacturing plant, it was a long-standing practice to distribute payroll checks on the job every Friday. One day, Plant Manager Floyd Griffith happened to observe the distribution procedure. He noticed that the occasion gave employees an opportunity to interrupt their work, stand around and gab, and in general alter the work pace. He called a meeting of the department heads to discuss the problem.

"They get two breaks a day," Griffith said. "This is like giving them an extra break on Friday. I think we could boost productivity if we just mail employees checks to their homes instead of handing them out here."

Production Manager Bill Halliday said, "They'll probably gripe up a storm if we do that."

"So what? Like all furors, it'll die down in time and become accepted practice."

"Since the contract is silent on this," Plant Engineer George Abrams said, "we might be able to get away with it."

Question : If this were your ball to run with, which way would you go?

Management's decision: Personnel Director Andrea Sanders raised a point in response to Abrams' comment. "The contract may be silent on the subject, but the Policy Manual isn't. It states that 'wages are to be paid weekly on company time.' If I'm not mistaken, this constitutes a contractual responsibility."

Abrams nodded thoughtfully. "I think she's right. I guess we should drop the whole idea."

The president reluctantly agreed.





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