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spark union overtime refusal

Rochester Tel job shifts
spark union overtime refusal

The overtime shutdown was officially declared last Thursday, but many union workers began refusing overtime in late January.
At issue are the jobs of 32 unionized repair service clerks, said Robert Flavin, president of the Communications Workers of America Local 1170. Because their job responsibilities have been changed, these workers could be moved to other jobs at a lower pay rate, he maintained.
Not so, said Daniel Farberman, manager of labor relations for Frontier Corp., Rochester Tel’s parent company.
Only one service clerk currently is affected by a change in duties, Farberman said. Four more may be affected in the future.
“But we’ve still got lots of work for them,” he added.
Rochester Tel plans no layoffs, Farberman said, and is prohibited by its contract with the union to tinker with the pay scale.
“If anything, we believe there’s the opportunity to upgrade these employees,” he said.
Flavin sees a more ominous picture than the one painted by Rochester Tel.
“Sure, it’s one (job) today–what is it tomorrow?” he said.
The union wants to negotiate any change in job responsibilities, he said, but Rochester Tel has been reluctant to do so.
“The company said: “You can grieve and arbitrate,”’ Flavin said. “Well, that takes a long time. In the meantime, the company can do whatever it wants.”
Farberman said he did suggest the union take action under the grievance and arbitration procedure set up in the collective bargaining agreement. He also offered to comply with an expedited arbitration process.
“Why hasn’t (Flavin) filed a grievance and pursued this in an orderly, prescribed manner? I don’t understand why,” he said.
Farberman did not know if Rochester Tel customers have been affected by the action. To deal with the lack of overtime workers, the firm has rearranged its schedule to eliminate some of the need for overtime, he said. Managers and other non-union workers are filling in to carry the remaining load.
“We’re managing, we’re keeping up with customer needs and taking all the appropriate steps to make sure this is transparent to our customers,” he said.
The overtime shutdown was prompted when Rochester Tel agreed to change the procedure for dealing with AT&T Co. local service calls.
Repair service clerks answer service calls from customers of Rochester Tel, Frontier Communications of Rochester Inc. and other companies providing local service in this area.
Until late last month, the clerks also fielded calls from AT&T customers. AT&T began offering local service Jan. 1, when the local market opened to competition. Some 3,500 people now subscribe to it’s local service.
In late January, repair service calls for AT&T customers were directed to its service bureau in Lee’s Summit, Mo. The union was not consulted about the change, Flavin said.
“We recognize that the industry has changed, and we recognize that we need to change our thinking, too,” Flavin said. “But you can’t shake hands with a tight fist.”
In addition to this recent dispute, 10 charges of unfair labor practices against Rochester Tel are before the National Labor Relations Board, Flavin said. None of the charges have reached the hearing stage. Both Flavin and Farberman declined to discuss details of the disputes.

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