Can you unilaterally change the wage payment procedure?

Is how to pay employees a management prerogative? Plant Engineer Luke Lester assumed it was when he suggested at an executive meeting that it might be a good idea to switch from weekly cash payment to the distribution of checks.
By Raymond Dreyfack September 1, 1998

Is how to pay employees a management prerogative? Plant Engineer Luke Lester assumed it was when he suggested at an executive meeting that it might be a good idea to switch from weekly cash payment to the distribution of checks.

Plant Manager Bernard Molinero looked skeptical.

“What’s the problem, Bernie?”

“Cash distribution has been in effect over 35 yr. I’m not sure we can unilaterally change a long-time practice like that without consulting the union.”

“Why not? For one thing, the contract specifies weekly payment, but makes no mention of method. For another, we would be making the change with greater efficiency and improved security in mind,” said Lester.

Molinero had to agree Lester had a point so far as security was involved. There had been a number of robberies in the area, the latest on payday. Since payroll processing was now totally automated with cross checking built in, it would probably make the procedure more uniform and efficient to distribute checks instead of cash, and safer as well. But he felt the union would likely oppose the pay change.

“Maybe we should check it out with Ben Kravitz,” the plant manager suggested.

“It can’t hurt.” Lester called the corporate attorney.

Question : Can management change the method of payment without consulting the union?

Expert’s opinion: “Every arbitrator might not agree,” Kravitz told Lester. “But for one thing, method of payment isn’t specified as a condition of employment. For another, management couldn’t justly be accused of negative intent. In my view cash payment doesn’t rank as a benefit protected by past practice, and can be discontinued at will.”

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