Boston Shakedown

Toady up, ‘GBH workers, it’s a new day in your workers’ paradise. Negotiations between the union and management ended without a word exchanged, the suits imposing their will as they saw fit. This post on the Facebook site for the Supporters of Folk and Blues on WGBH came courtesy of Jeff Boudreau in Boston, written by Martin Evans, a Cambridge resident and professor emeritus at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto:

It is sad when an institution that one respects takes a foolish and inappropriate step. I refer, of course, to the imposition on its employees of a contract — based on WGBH’s final offer to its employees.

There are two problems with this action.

The first has to do with timing. WGBH is in the middle of its spring fundraiser. It is hardly conducive to creating a favorable impression of the Station when it is acting like the Wisconsin Republicans in abolishing the union dues checkoff procedures. I am sure that fund raising will suffer. I have already withdrawn my very modest support.

The second has to do with the nature of WGBH as an organization. It is, what Henry Mintzberg called, a Professional Bureaucracy. In a Professional Bureaucracy, the organizations real assets lie in the Human Capital brought to the Station by its employees. It is the Producers, it is the on-air commentators and hosts, it is the technical studio staff who are the core employees and the heart and soul of WGBH. The managers in such an organization need to do two things:

  • Make good hires. This will ensure that the station has the capacity to engage in insightful and challenging programming. Along the way, new hires will need to be be trained and socialized in the ways of the station.
  • Provide a supportive culture for these core workers so they can do their best work and to protect them when outside forces make unwarranted attacks on them.

We can see that over the last seven months of bargaining, the management of WGBH has disregarded these two important roles. Management has alienated their professional staff by insisting on unlimited outsourcing and on the ability to fire employees at will (instead of for cause).

They have shown disrespect for their employees’ union representatives by discontinuing the collection of union dues on behalf of the union.

This is not a culture in which professional employees would want to work. Only the poor job market in the United States will probably keep many of the professionals at their posts.

Over time, under the new contract, WGBH will be hollowed out. What a shame.

The website for Massachusetts Jobs with Justice pointed out what this management move entails:

  • Project contract employees are now effectively at-will employees. They will receive no severance pay if they are given at least six months notice. They are not eligible for severance unless they have been in the same job in the same department for at least five years. Management has no obligation to pay out the balance of their contract.
  • On-air employees and those who direct them can be fired without cause at any time under the so-called Artistic Discretion Termination clause.
  • Employees who are exempt from overtime and work more than 40 hours in a week including a 6th or 7th day will no longer receive any additional compensation or compensatory time for their work.

The site also fact-checks some of management assertions leading to imposition of its position on the work force — well worth a read.

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