14 Avoidable Costs When your Union Workers Take the Day Off

Maria Cowper-Smith
February 11, 2019

     Union workers have 50–100% more vacation and sick time than non-union workers. In union workplaces, up to 7% of each worker’s shifts per year aren’t worked, meaning operators need to readjust the schedule frequently.

Dealing with time off can be painful- finding replacements according to the union contract takes time and effort. Many operators assume it’s just a (frustrating) cost of doing business. We’ve worked with union workplaces across North America, and seen firsthand the costs that filling these shifts imposes on operators. We’ve carefully tracked which costs are unavoidable, and which could be avoided with the right tools. Here’s a list of 14 avoidable costs you incur every time a supervisor fills a shift:

  1. Overtime: Shifts are often offered to the workers that managers think are available, not part-timers (who should receive the opportunity to get extra hours first)
  2. Wasted supervisor time filling shifts: Our customers report 15–30 of manager time spent filling each open shift. This adds up — in many workplaces, managers spend as much as 15% of their time calling employees! Plus, supervisors should be taking detailed notes: Who did they call? In which order? Why in that order? This record keeping helps to address any subsequent complaints—but it wastes even more manager time right now.
  3. Wasted manager time fielding complaints: “You never call me!” When workers don’t believe they were called in the right order, managers hear about it and have to deal with the consequences. One manager we spoke with had spent six hours- in just the past just the past week—dealing with these complaints.
  4. Payouts: One workplace that now now uses SYRG used to compensate employees who correctly complained that they weren’t offered shifts— paying these employees for shifts they never worked. Managers argued that this was cheaper than the alternative, which was…
  5. Grievances: A lost grievance is costly—add the cost of the shift to both sides’ legal fees, and you’re in the tens of thousands of dollars… all over an argument about eight hours of overtime.
  6. Worker productivity: When workers are focusing more on “who got the extra shift” than “what am I supposed to be accomplishing,” less gets done.
  7. Worker engagement: “Managers are playing favorites,” is a common complaint in union workplaces. Limited transparency in giving out shifts just fuels the belief that managers are “calling their favorites,” and that the “workplace is corrupt.” When workers mistrust the extra shift process, they mistrust everything.
  8. Admin overstaffing: Many workplaces have hired scheduling admins who are charged with filling open shifts… by hand. This is a tiring, stressful job. Speaking with one scheduling admin who recently left her job, the scheduling admin role “was the most miserable experience of my life. Everybody hated me!”
  9. Manager turnover: One union rep complained to us, “I’ve stopped learning managers’ names—they’re all gone in a year.” Manager turnover in unionized workplaces is often significantly higher turnover.
  10. Worker overstaffing: Many unionized workplaces staff extra employees to create a “cushion” for call-outs. The problem? This leaves most shifts overstaffed, which balloons labor costs.
  11. Worker Understaffing: Sometimes, managers simply decide to not fill shifts, or “call off the hunt” after a half-hour of calls. This means your workplace is and important work is not getting done.
  12. Temp workers: In some industries, the use of “temps” is is prevalent when your own employees can’t fill the shift. Temps are a last resort— they’re expensive and of variable quality. Plus, when the temps show up, your workers more likely to file grievances.
  13. Customer experience: Ultimately, the customer will notice.
  14. Brand reputation: And ultimately, your brand’s reputation will will suffer.

Interested in implementing an automated system to eliminate these 14 types of costs? Let’s chat!

What if addressing these costs was an initiative your union supported? Learn more about why unions support SYRG.

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