Businesses Working To Lessen Effects Of NLRB Ruling

By Michael A. Verespej The National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) recent ruling, which states that temporary workers, under certain circumstances, could be considered part of an existing bargaining unit at a company and entitled to the same pay and benefits as full-time workers, may have businesses scurrying to minimize its effects. For starters, says Heather MacDougall, associate general counsel for the Labor Policy Assn. in Washington, expect companies to try to negotiate with unions a separate pay package for temporary workers that companies hire for short-term production or office needs. However, this will be difficult since the three main bargaining issues this last decade have been job security, mandatory overtime and contracting out of work. In addition, since the NLRB ruling mandates its regional directors resolve such bargaining-unit clarifications on a case-by-case basis -- based on whether the two groups of employees "share a community of interests" -- you also will see companies takes steps to differentiate between temporary and full-time workers says one labor-relations negotiator. There are several ways, he says, that companies can do that: Have temporary workers wear badges or uniforms, do not let them attend company functions outside the workplace, or simply make the wage gap between temporary and full-time workers wider. "The bigger the disparity in wages, the better," he says. The silver linings in the NLRB decision? Each bargaining-unit clarification must be decided on its own merits. And the board did not rule that temporary workers automatically become members of the bargaining unit or have an automatic right to vote in representation elections. But don't expect the ruling--which overturned a 27-year-old NLRB policy--to be reversed anytime soon in the federal courts. For the issue to reach that stage, a company would have to refuse a specific order from a regional director of the NLRB to bargain, be cited for an unfair labor practice, and lose in a full hearing before the NLRB before the issue could be appealed to a U.S. District Court of Appeals.

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