Subject changes to the reasonableness test

"It's not fair," Union Delegate Bill Southern protested to Maintenance Supervisor Jim Handy. "Coffee breaks on the honor system have been the policy here for as far back as I can remember.
By Raymond Dreyfack September 1, 1998

“It’s not fair,” Union Delegate Bill Southern protested to Maintenance Supervisor Jim Handy. “Coffee breaks on the honor system have been the policy here for as far back as I can remember.”

“I can’t argue with that,” Handy conceded, “but management feels it’s time for a change.”

“Maybe so, but not on a unilateral basis. The issue’s negotiable. You can’t suddenly decide a long established practice no longer applies.”

“You can’t fault management for that decision, Bill. People have been taking advantage of the honor system, with breaks of 30 min or more. You can’t say that’s honorable.”

“No argument there. But let’s be reasonable. Changing to two 8-min breaks a day is something we can’t live with. We’d have no choice but to fight it.”

Handy nodded. “I’ll pass the word to Mr. Kramer and get back to you.”

Question : If the union makes an issue of the unilateral change, what do you think the outcome would be?

Kramer’s verdict: “Bill may have a point,” Plant Engineer Alan Kramer told Handy. “Let’s hear what Greta Brundage has to say.”

When called, the company’s attorney echoed Kramer’s concern. “The key word is ‘reasonable.’ It’s a matter of duration. We might conceivably get away with 10-min breaks unilaterally. But I doubt we could make any time under 10 min hold if this goes to arbitration.”