Assigning work at TVO: the basics:
A number of events over the past few weeks have raised questions about TVO’s rights to assign work to employees, what union the employee assigned to do the work belongs in and how that work is compensated.
An employer generally has the right to assign employees as it sees fit to accomplish its objectives, including moving employees from one area to another. Because these kinds of changes were made arbitrarily in the past at TVO and led to some disputes, the Guild and TVO negotiated language into the collective agreement to try to reduce the potential for conflict:
? A provision in the collective agreement deals with assignment opportunities within the organization: when new assignments come available and others are eliminated, the people affected are given the opportunity to express their interest in specific assignments.
? Letter of Agreement that anticipates that the employer will discuss changes with the union and allow the union to give its input prior to implementation of any “significant” change.
? Letter of Agreement that sets out a review of existing job descriptions.
The “tvoparents” case:
The company has taken a few shortcuts in this case. Although one might be able to argue that the recent posting of new Digital Media Producer positions respects ? or at least gives lip service to ? the language on assignment opportunities, we think that the changes are significant enough to warrant a lengthier discussion. A number of people have also expressed concerns that the existing job descriptions for Producer/Directors don’t encompass a number of the new tasks that people will be expected to perform.
You may have concerns about being asked or ordered to do things that you’ve never done before or things that were previously or traditionally done by members of CEP. What you should do:
? Get clarity on what you are being asked to do. It’s not unreasonable for you to ask for written confirmation of the tasks that are expected of you. The review of job descriptions that’s required under the collective agreement still hasn’t been completed. We expect that some tasks will be dropped from some job descriptions, and some new tasks will be added. It’s also possible that entirely new classifications will be created ? and the Guild and TVO will have to negotiate appropriate pay scales for them. Any information you obtain will be useful to those discussions.
? Make sure you request the training you need to be comfortable and perform well in your new role. It’s not reasonable for your supervisor to make you responsible for the quality of your work if you’ve never been given adequate and appropriate training.
“Hybrid” work and union jurisdiction at TVO:
Technology continues to blur the lines between content creation (done by Guild members) and content manipulation (which has traditionally been more by CEP members). TVO’s choices in assigning work to employees have caused some hard feelings, and as a result there has been some friction, primarily between CEP and TVO, with Guild members finding themselves in the middle. The Guild’s approach to the shifting nature of jobs is in line with the way we have dealt with similar issues at other employers, most notably the CBC. We believe the best way to proceed is to acknowledge that the workplace is changing, and to discuss ways to make sure that the company succeeds ? but not at the cost of its workers. It’s not about building walls around our jobs or the kind of work we do; it’s about making sure that people are able to have worthwhile, meaningful, interesting careers.
Our collective agreement includes a provision for management and the two unions to meet and discuss workplace change and how best to adapt to it. To date, CEP has refused to participate in the process, but we’re optimistic that we can reach some kind of agreement.
Where do we go from here?
We need to look to the future. That means:
? making sure employees have a voice as the changes occur so that we’re an active part of the future instead of reacting to changes after they are imposed on us.
? Being present anywhere we need to be, such as union-management meetings and arbitration hearings, to ensure that our interests are advanced.
? Planning for our next round of bargaining, to ensure we have solid training and skills development language and opportunities for re-skilling to make sure employees can continue to have meaningful work in our changing industry.
CMG has long experience in dealing with these types of challenges. They are complex and the solutions are sometimes difficult to find, but together we can find them.