Saturday, August 19, 2006

Corporate Responsiveness

Here's a cute story that made me grayer and balder... Last August (that's 2005), two supervisors phoned from one of our fine, signator studios (I'll refrain from saying which one because grievances -- even ludicrous ones -- are supposed to be confidential.) Their complaint was relatively minor: they were both working "on-call" and therefore, per the guild contract, both were supposed to get 56 contribution hours put into the health and pension plan each and every week. Trouble was, the payroll department was contributing only forty. They had complained to human resources, but nothing had happened. So they asked if I could help. "Gladly," I said, and quick as a hyperactive leprechaun, I got over to Human Resources and explained that the supervisors were supposed to get fifty-six contribution hours, since they were on call. "Oh absolutely," the manager smiled at me. "We'll get right on it." I relayed this information to the artists. They were grateful. I walked back to my car with a warm glow of satisfaction. But then September came. And I got another call from the supervisors. "It still shows forty hours on our check stubs. What gives?" I told them I had no idea, that Human Resources understood the problem and was getting right on it. Or so I had been led to believe. So I went over to H.R. again. The manager was still all smiles, "Gee, we KNOW they're supposed to get fifty-six hours, but payroll doesn't respond to our phone messages." I decided to go up the food chain, and get a Vice-President of Labor Relations on the phone. (He and I go way back, and we're downright friendly.) He was totally behind my position, said the supes absolutely should have been paid fifty-six hours. "I'll call payroll and get it taken care of, get all the hours retroed." I let the supervisors know the problem was licked, that a Vice President of Labor Relations was working on it. They voiced contentment. Time passed, and soon it was October. Late October. I was sitting in my office, dreaming my fall dreams, when the receptionist buzzed to let me know BLANK and BLANK were on the line with an "hours problem." I could feel my stomach lining wring itself out as I picked up the receiver. "Still forty hours?" I said in as normal a voice as I could muster. "No change," the two of them said. I called the Labor Relations Veep again, this time with less joviality and good humor. "What does it take to get your godd*mn payroll department to pay the right number of hours?" I snapped. "An act of Congress?" He was apologetic. He was sympathetic. He didn't know what was wrong with the payroll department, but he would get on the phone and scream at somebody. Kick an accountant in the fanny, etc. etc. November. Same deal with the supervisors, they're still short by sixteen hours on a weekly basis. I don't phone Labor Relations this time. I mail a grievance letter, threatening arbitration, penalites, interest and general mayhem. The studio and animation guild are fighting over something they both agree on, but what can a person do? Four mother-loving months have gone by and STILL the supervisors are getting shafted. (I start to think it's a new management strategy: just perpetually agree there's a problem but never DO anything about it.) December. I phone Labor Relations to confirm our upcoming arbitration date. The Veep says we don't have a dispute, why do we have to do this? I say because I have to be a pain in the ass and make his life miserable or nothing will continue to happen. He pleads with me to change the date. He has a conflict. Holidays are coming up. Stupidly, I agree to a change in the calendar. So let's cut to the finale: In February we finally had an arbitration. No arguments. No heated rhetoric. Also no sixteen hours, since payroll still hadn't come through. THAT didn't happen until later in the month. Elapsed time for resolution to the non-dispute dispute? Seven months. No, closer to eight months. The supervisors finally got all their hours. A month after the job they were working on ended and they were laid off.


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