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sudden change to contract

(5 Posts)
puzzledexpression Sat 20-Apr-13 17:49:47

I'd appreciate any advice you can give on this.

I do hourly paid work for a large company (zero hours). For the last 3 years they offered short term fixed contracts at a fixed weekly rate that's about 20% higher than the rest of the year for the same amount of hours, because the contract work is more specialised and has higher workload. Our pay for the last 2 years matched the national average for such work in order to recruit suitable staff (there is a lot of demand for workers with our skills at this time. It's a professional role).

This year HR sent out invitations to apply for returning workers after Christmas, stating that the rate would be the same as last year (ie the going, enhanced, rate for this type of work). However they have now reduced it so pay is the same as the year-round work (ie 20% lower than the going rate). No consultation and it's been justified in terms of standardising rates of pay for similar roles across the company.

Last year, they acknowledged in writing that the work was more specialised and workload higher, hence the enhanced rate. This year they are using a standardised job description which omits reference to specialised work / workload. The job hasn't changed - we know we will still be doing the specialised work.

The new pay is also not competitive nationally so will find it hard to recruit, meaning a higher workload and possibly damage to the reputation (work quality, underqualified staff) and reduced turnover for the company who will probably have to turn down business.

A recent external consultant identified staffing shortages as a problem. HR policy statement says that hourly-paid recruitment processes ought to attract the best recruits.

Our line manager has tried to get HR to reconsider but she has had no luck and thinks we'll just have to put up.

The contract starts in about 7 weeks so we have limited time to act or seek alternative work, leaving us with few options.

This change affects 10 people. Only 1 or 2 of us are union members. We want the rate we were offered last year and initially, this year.

How would you go about tackling the problem?

flowery Sat 20-Apr-13 19:50:32

Is this work part of your contract or not? Sorry it's slightly difficult to tell. If doing this work at the previous rate is something you are contracted to do, then reducing the pay without consultation etc is not on.

But if its entirely optional extra work that they recruit externally for but also offer to internal employees, but that isn't part of anyone's contract, then the rate they offer is entirely up to them. It's a commercial decision. You may think for all the reasons that you mention that it is not a sensible one, but it's their decision to make.

Unless they are very reliant on the workers you mention as being affected, and those workers refuse to do the extra work on the new terms, then you are not in a particularly strong position.

I would agree with you that for established workers bringing experience, skills and reliability, it's not really cricket to reduce the pay rates just because legally they can do so, but unless anyone is contracted for the work at the higher rate, no laws have been broken, and no contracts have been changed as per your thread title.

flowery Sat 20-Apr-13 19:52:48

Just realised I didn't actually answer your final question. Are you and your colleagues in a position to refuse the work unless its on the previous rate, and would that be a problem for your employer?

Assuming its not a contractual change as above, then a group action like that might be your best bet.

puzzledexpression Sat 20-Apr-13 23:39:59

hi flowery, thanks for your reply.

We are not contracted to do the work because we are all zero hours, and it is entirely optional, there is also no pressure to accept.

We all replied to the early email to accept the original pay offer which was later withdrawn - would this form a contract / need for consultation do you think?

about half of us are in a position to refuse the offer and yes this would cause problems. The workers are very mobile both nationally and internationally, about 30% come from outside UK to do the work so we can easliy go elsewhere. However, some of us are based here and have no choice so we want to resolve the issue to our satisfaction rather than walk away.

puzzledexpression Sat 20-Apr-13 23:43:23

actually, the initial higher pay offer was not formally withdrawn, but an advert went up on job websites at the lower rate of pay. We were not informed that there would be any change, but one of us noticed by chance. We emailed to ask and then we were told that the lower rate of pay would apply. Quite sneaky!

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