Changing hours: Must we talk to the union first?

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Q. Our employees recently voted for a union and we are now negotiating. Our policies say full-time em­­ployee status starts at 30 hours per week. All of our full-time employees currently work 40 hours per week. We want to decrease the hours of some employees (about 25% of them) from eight to six per day. Do we have to bargain with the union on this change or can we just notify them? (Full-time employees would still work more than 30 hours per week.) — Jay, California

A. You can unilaterally change your workers’ hours, but you will certainly draw an unfair labor practice charge (or more than one) from the union.

Negotiating over the number of hours a particular position will be scheduled each week directly affects employee wages and, as such, is a mandatory subject of collective bargaining. Your efforts to improve efficiency, coming after an election and before you have negotiated a first contract, may also be perceived as retaliation against the employees who supported the union. That’s not to say you can’t make any changes, but you need to be very careful.

I suggest you consult with an experienced attorney as soon as possible, especially if you have not yet engaged one to assist you in the negotiations with the union in question.

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