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You sometimes can boost benefits during union election

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in Compensation and Benefits,Employee Benefits Program,Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

As a general rule, once a union organizing drive is under way at a nonunion workplace, management can’t make any changes to the terms and conditions of employment.

But what if the changes management wants to make are ones that the company has routinely made around that same time of year? If that’s the case, you probably can go ahead and make the changes, even if that may influence the vote.

The key is to make certain you can show how you handled the changes in the past and that the new move is consistent with past practice.

Recent case: While a vote was nearing to see whether workers at the Stanadyne Automobile Corp. wanted to be represented by an AFL-CIO union, the company announced a change in the formula for pension benefit calculations. It increased the benefit from $19 per month per year of service to $21 per month.

The union sued, alleging it was an unfair-labor practice to make the change while a union organizing battle was in full force.

Management countered that the increase resulted from its regular program for increasing benefits. The company’s compensation and benefits manager testified that he reviewed the benefits offered by the company’s competitors twice a year and recommended changes based on his analysis. Management typically accepted his recommendations and announced the changes around the same time twice every year. This time the announcement coincided with the union vote.

The court said the announcement was not an unfair-labor practice since it was part of a regular compensation and benefits update. (International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Workers of America, v. National Labor Relations Board, No. 05-6026, 2nd Cir., 2008)

Advice: You should never attempt to go through a union drive without solid legal advice from experienced labor counsel. Your attorney can help you decide the best approach to dissuade union formation without running afoul of the National Labor Relations Act.

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