Overtime continues to concern me. Like an octopus, the tentacles of both paid and unpaid overtime continue to twist around employees' lives, and the topic persists as public debate through some high-profile lawsuits.
Overtime and unpaid work
Last month, the Ontario Superior Court dismissed a $600-million class action suit against one of Canada's biggest banks (CIBC), saying that the case did not meet the test to be a class-action lawsuit. Dara Fresco and her attorneys will appeal by the end of August. Fresco was joined by hundreds of bank branch employees who protested unpaid overtime.
In the meantime, I received an e-mail from Matthew, who lost his job in July. He's one of a dozen friends and colleagues chopped from a giant telecom's Canadian head office in the last month. Just back from a family canoe trip, he wrote: "This is the first vacation in 12 years that I have not taken with a pager on my belt, and it felt fantastic."
Shortly after his note, Michael Sanserino's August 10 article in The Globe and Mail caught my eye: "Two recent lawsuits (T-Mobile USA and CB Richard Ellis Group Inc.) raise a question that many employees and employers have deliberated: Should hourly workers be paid for time spent responding to work calls or e-mails while off the clock?"
Matthew was a manager, so continual off-hours calls were considered part of the job, because managers, though stock-ownership benefits, are considered "owners" of the company. Note, however, that Matthew's company did not pay bonuses to anyone at his level at the last year-end, nor are employee stock purchase plans available to this global company's Canadian workforce.
But, Sanserino observes, "... such disputes are growing as cheaper technology puts pagers, smart phones or other devices in the hands of more workers."
In the Globe and Mail's August 12 "In Brief" column, Wallace Immen reports: "In the face of the global economic crisis, three-quarters of companies have taken steps to contain overtime costs, including freezes on overtime or setting a ceiling on pay, a (Conference Board of Canada) study of 130 organizations found. In addition, several unionized organizations are trying to renegotiate contracts to reduce the premium paid for overtime work."
When paid overtime costs are being scrutinized, the temptation for managers at all levels to ask people to work unpaid overtime becomes even greater.
People left in the corporate lifeboat are working ever harder, with fewer boundaries between work and personal life. Whether employee or contract worker, manager or hourly worker, unpaid overtime is gaining traction as fear keeps people in line and silent.
Even in companies who pay for overtime, is a routine workload of undesired extra hours any way to live?
From overtime to no time: What happens to those downsized?
Matthew, a 42-year-old IT professional, is making a career change. In September, he will return to university as a mature student to pursue a divinity degree, following in his father's footsteps.
Update on other downsized friends:
- C., 51, a lawyer who specializes in corporate governance: lost senior executive job at a bank in January, was hired by another bank as a contractor in March; hoping to be offered a full time position there.
- J., 45, who lost her sales job in January: unemployed, and received word that an entrepreneurial venture she was hoping to partially fund with a government grant was declined; she's cut her expenses by sharing her home and wants to pursue her avocation, guitar-building.
- M., 55, who lost her job at a non-profit in January: unemployed; over 25 applications have not yielded one interview. She is planning to revive her freelance training business, though would prefer working for an organization.
If you find my update on the 50+ job-seeker's front dispiriting, Barbara Ehrenreich's "Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream" is even bleaker. She presents a version of her real self, a 50+ communications professional searching for a corporate PR/Communications job, and chronicles her trek through job fairs, career counselors, online job boards and image advisors (one of the better experiences).
You can see heartbreak and rejection coming a mile away, but it the unremitting dead ends and unethical scams she reports made me squirm nonetheless.