General discussion



By LCM Man ·
I have noticed (but never been employed at) some companies that have a union for their IT groups. I was wondering if I could get feedback as to the pros and cons of such an environment and any experiences with an IT union.

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I have the experience

by JamesRL In reply to Unionize?!?

Of having managed two groups that did the same job, one was unionized and the other was not. I have also done the job they were doing (desktop support) in a non unionized place.

Unionizing doesn't change the players - you still have bosses and employees. It puts a wall up between the employees and the management team.

Unionizing means you have less ability to descriminate in a positive way - you have to treat everyone the same, even if some people work harder and deserve rewards, or conversly even if they are slackers, you have to treat them as well as you treat your best employees.

Unions eliminate the latitude people have to make rational comprimises with each other. If I undestand that Suzy has daycare issues and needs off early now and then, I have to give Johnny the same priveleges if he asks, even though he has no kids and just wants out early to beat the traffic.

Unions mean that employees get a fair chunk of pay taken off for dues. I'm not sure that they actually get back what they pay out.

Its hard to fire people in unionized shops for incompetance or laziness. Ironically this means the teams themselves tend to not get along as well. There are always people picking up the slack for those trying to work the system.

In an unionized environment, time on the job becomes an important factor. I could have two employees who do the same job - one who works hard, takes personal responsibility, goes above and beyond, and another who is a slacker who does the bare minimum. As long as I haven't put the slacker on a Performance Improvement Plan, then if I have to lay someone off, I have to layoff the hard worker, because the slacker has more seniority. It also means that if someone in another group with comparable but not the same skill sets gets laid off, and they have more seniority than one of my staff, they can bump my staff into being laid off. That truly sucks for everyone involved.

I could go on, but I think you get the gist. I dont' work in a unionized environment now, and I am glad of it.


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Negative Opinion

by davemori In reply to Unionize?!?

Unions seem to be good for a brief period of time, and then just seem to lapse into their own powerplay agendas which do not always fit in with what the union membership wants. Sometimes it is like having a second HR Department, filled with opinionated, politically correct (union correct), people who add little value in a crisis. Once that happens, they become less useful to the individual and basically just act to take away your money in the form of Union Dues.

Union protection of your job is marginal at best.
Completely fictitious at worst.

The world is more international now, and it is all too easy to outsource an entire IT department to some foreign country. There will be no picket lines to cross, hence the concept of a strike is not going to be taken seriously. An IT department is not a public utility, an airline or a supermarket where someone has to be on site.

Companies also are a lot more savvy with respect to dealing with unions. There are subtle ways to career limit, blacklist and get rid of people who take strong pro-union stances.

Unions are also notorious for putting in union steward type personnel who layer union rules and procedures over an already overburdened IT staff who just want to get the job done as quickly as possible.

At one of my past jobs, a union person had to be contacted in order to move any desktop PC or printer from any location or even an equipment staging or lockup room. Sometimes they even complained about people moving laptops and notebook computers. Complete waste of time, and it often delayed timely IT staff response -- guess who the users came screaming at for the delay? Not the union.

Personally, I can't see a value add to an IT union. It will not protect anyone's job, and the best way to keep from being outsourced is for IT to stop playing hardball with its users, start keeping its schedules and promises, and consistently work actively with its users in a positive fashion.

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by mjd420nova In reply to Negative Opinion

For a period of ten years I worked for a group
that was represented by the union but we paid no
dues and didn't have to walk a picket line if they did strike. We lost no time off and got all
the increases the union negotiated. Best of both worlds?? Not quite, the boss tries to change the work rules and was unhappy with
certain work procedures...He tried to complain
and was told to stick to the rules, as the contract affected 135 locations nationwide and
they didn't want to **** off the union. He found
other ways to crap in our nest, and even pushed us to the point of trying to organize a union, as that would get the corporate bosses up in
arms, and gert him fired. Alas we couldn't figure out an exit scenario to get rid of the union after the nasty boss was gone...

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by davemori In reply to Onionize??

This is what I was alluding to when I mentioned that companies have a lot of ways of getting around a union.

We had a similar problem when I was working for a consulting company that was subcontracted out to another consulting company. Owner of the primary consulting company wanted us to falsify out timecards and billing documents to the customer.

Her own staff and all of the members of my team disagreed. Rather than unionize, I approached my boss who agreed to take everyone on board who wanted to leave, through another company at arms length from our company (non-compete clause in the subcontract agreement).

We all walked out on a wednesday, except for two people employed by the prime company who got cold feet at the last second.

Boss of the prime company lost her contracts, lost her customers (we had documentation on the orders to falsify) and lost her business.

Sometimes, acting in unison is better than unionizing. It all comes down to how reasonable or unreasonable the boss is going to be, and what the situations are.

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Unions are not for professionals

by amcol In reply to Unionize?!?

As an IT professional, that's exactly what you are...a professional. Professionals don't belong in unions, and IT professionals in particular should avoid them like the plague. In order to function productively as an IT professional you need direct personal constant contact with management, in a consultative and mutually cooperative relationship. Unions are precisely the best way to prevent this from happening.

Unions are an anachronistic blight on industrialized society that outlived their usefulness decades ago but refuse to accept that reality.

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Dear Mrs Thatcher

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Unions are not for profes ...

WOW. Actually I partially agree with you. Which is strange as I was in a union for twenty+ years and a big supporter of it.

Unions will outlive their usefulness, when the needs of the employee are treated equally with the needs of the business. ie never. The problem with unionisation (this is a UK perspective) was that they turned from championing employees rights (working time , living wage, health benefits, not having to have three children to boost your employability) into championing their own. They in the UK became politicised, to the point where they were a bigger danger to our continued employment as some management plan to enhance share holder value and get a big bonus.
We don't need to throw out the baby with the bathwater here, we need to realise that water is an important resource and that a baby, given a good nurturing can become a contributing member of society.
I'll always be in favour of unions in that they at least should safeguard the rights of individuals from the amoral and uncaring practices in business. I'll never be in favour of unions when their leaders are capable of putting their own personal agendas in front of mine.
I'm sure you are a really good fellow, but in your camp you also have the sort of asshole who'll employ illegal immigrants in their factory and than pay the fine for doing so out of the substantial cost saving. You also have someone who'll remove his native workfore and employ a load a of foreign labour in an offshore sweatshop and still charge the same price for their product. In my camp, I get idiots like Scargill, who seem to think business's exist for the sole benefit of those they employ. Which of us is worse off would be a hard thing to decide in an objective manner.
What we need is unions who understand the limitations of business (you can't have a business without making a profit) and business's that understand the rights of their workforce, (you can't have a business without empoyess to do the work)
I've been an IT professional in a union and out of it. To be quite honest the costs and benefits have sort of balanced out, but that's because my union wasn't a bunch of left wing loonies and my employers aren't a bunch of 'free' market capitalists with an eye on their next management bonus.
It's extremism on both sides that was, is and will be the problem, not just on the one that is apposite.

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Good points

by amcol In reply to Dear Mrs Thatcher

However...while I agree with most of what you're saying, I fail to see how unions address the issue of employing illegal immigrants.

Unions don't represent these unfortunate folk. They're undocumented and not members of any unions, so why any union would speak up on their behalf is beyond me. They're completely disenfranchised and unrepresented, except by well meaning moral people who take on their cause out of a sense of decency and social righteousness.

Unions originally came into being to protect workers' rights in the absence of any legislative or regulatory redress when those rights were violated. That's not the case today, and unions serve only to suck the life out of companies with ever increasing demands that have no basis in any organizations' ability to meet them. In my mind unions are just as culpable as incompetent management when companies fail.

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by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Good points

I concede tha point the illegal imigrants was more of a pointer about amoral business practice and in my opinion a legislative environment that pays lip service to the opposition they claim to it. Fines for things like this are just seen as a business overhead.

Employees legislative rights is not as clear cut as it could be. Without a union behind you it's much harder to take your employer to court. It's your livelihood against them getting a fine. On top of that your career there ends on the spot win lose or draw.
There's no doubt at all that unions have contributed to a lack of employment of their own membership, seems a little counter productive to me. One idiot told me I had to think of the bigger picture, he got the full benefit of my wide ranging vocabulary.
A few of my employers have also received that boon as well, I personally don't need a union now, when I was a wet behind the ears teenager in the 80's though I definitely did so overall I have have a good opinion of them.

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Been there, done that...

by angry_white_male In reply to Unionize?!?

At a public sector IT job I once held. Union contract was pretty much existing HR policy (benefits, etc...) and a realigning of pay grades to put everyone on a level playing field.

But otherwise, the union sucked dues $$$ out of our paychecks and didn't go to bat for us when grievances were filed.

I'm anti-union myself... and even considering the pro's of a union - unless you're working in a dangerous environment and getting paid by the hour - unions don't belong in an IT shop.

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