Is overtime work a time-honored precedent?

When a consultant's Productivity and Cost Effectiveness Audit Report for ABC Co. included a suggestion calling for split lunch periods, the crew was up in arms.


When a consultant's Productivity and Cost Effectiveness Audit Report for ABC Co. included a suggestion calling for split lunch periods, the crew was up in arms.

The workforce's main objection to the split lunch periods focused on the assumed likelihood that the change would result in a loss of overtime work. For several years, the 45-min lunch period ran from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m., during which time machines were shut down and activity halted. This shutdown almost always resulted in overtime.

A committee of three workers approached Plant Manager Phil Russo's desk. "What this means," said one worker, "is that we'll get screwed out of overtime."

"Possibly, but not necessarily," Russo replied, "although I wouldn't put it that way."

He patiently tried to explain how and why a split lunch period would make plant operations more economic, productive, and competitive. He pointed out that stopping and starting machines produced scrap, caused loss of continuity, delayed customer shipments, and loss of business.

While the positive aspects were obvious, the committee's concerns centered more on their own economic well being than the company's.

"The overtime scheduling has been in effect for years," the spokesperson persisted. "You can't unilaterally alter it without consulting the union."

Russo disagreed. The committee threatened a grievance.

Question : If the threat is carried out, do you think the workers will win?

Management's verdict: The split lunch hour goes into effect, management decided. As Russo stated the case, "No clause in the labor agreement guarantees overtime work. In fact, the responsibility to improve performance and productivity is inherent in management's right to manage. Its obligation to consult the union before initiating change applies to 'working conditions,' not preestablished management prerogatives."

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