Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"We Can't"

I've harped on this before, but since it recently came up again at one of our fine contract studios, I now reharp.

Many large motion picture companies today -- sub-sets of even larger conglomerates -- put policies in place that often tilt to their "corporate" (non-union) work force.

For instance, the corporate employee might get ten holidays to the union employee's nine. Or the corporate side gets a little extra vacation, or a cafeteria style health plan with varying levels of co-payments.

You get the idea.

So last week before Thanksgiving, I'm in a studio and a member asks me for the tenth time why they can't get a "flex account" for medical expenses (if you don't know, an f.a. is employee benefit that allows somebody to deduct part of her or his paycheck into a tax-free account for out-of-pocket medical expenses. The company doesn't kick anything in; it just sets up an account and deducts wages into it at the employee's direction.)

This might come as a shock, but if you're union, at many companies you can't have a flex account.

Now. There's nothing illegal about this. There's no law that requires the company to treat every group of employees the same as regards flexible accounts or many other things, but it's aggravating for union/guild employees nonetheless.

But what aggravates me the most isn't the denial of this or that perk, it's the pussyfooting that goes with it: "Gee, we'd love to give you blank, but the rules prohibit us from doing so."

Guess who makes the rules? The damn company.

But my favorite weasel is "The union won't let us ..."

The truth? A company can offer more vacation, flex accounts, or gold bullion at Christmas to all of some, or it can choose not to.

Sadly, few companies have the internal fortitude to state the reality: "Sure, we could give you what you ask for, but we don't wanna."

Far easier to fob the responsibility off on process ... or the union ... or an uncaring universe. God forbid anybody take actual responsibility for the policies they dole out.


Kevin Koch said...

Steve, it's worth noting that local 839 leaders have brought up the issue of Flexible Spending Accounts for health care and for dependent care with the studios several times, both directly and through the studio/guild "Cooperative Committee."

After the last time, there was an assurance that the various studios would explore the issue with their various payroll departments or payroll companies, and that they'd get back to us. So far, we've heard nothing, and just getting the studios to schedule another Cooperative Committee meeting seems to be more than the studios can handle.

I encourage those of you who want FSAs, which I think are a great idea, to directly request them of your studio management and HR departments. It's easy for studio labor relations reps to ignore "the union" on matters like this, and much harder for studio management to ignore multiple employees all requesting the same thing (especially when that thing doesn't really cost them money).

Site Meter