Today, at my place of employment I partook in the once every three year event: the overview of the employee agreement. Now, this had always interested me, because I could never understand the concept of something that I never had any agreement with or to; the terms that were set in it. Oh yes, we were told that we must sign it, but, according to the document, we were only singing the fact that we received it, read it and that the managers read it and explained it to us: that we somewhat understand it. The “agreement” part was a big mystery. And to add to this, I seemed to be the only person who saw this or brought it up.
Several years later, or to be more specific, 3 years at college and university studying law, the equation now was explainable and understandable to the point that I could explain this concept and at least teach the concept to someone with no higher education than highschool. Actually, I would be insulting anyone who thought that you needed a post secondary education to grasp this. In sum, it is a play on words, like the “new speak” Orwell’s book called 1984, this was designed to take the meanings of common words and revers the meaning to suite the new term, adding a err of subjectability to the impact to hearing the term in question. However, this point seems self explanatory, so I’ll move on
The baffling effect to having an employer engage in this routine is that it seems to inject a sense that everyone in the room at the time of the presentation has played a part in it. Now, I should stress here, that we are not a Union workplace, and when dealing with large corporations, the elusion or “pretending we are in an agreement,” that each employee has the blessing to make change in their own interest is “fact,” falls quickly as most are overwhelmed by the extra energy that managers present in their theatrics.
Trick number 1 is the best of all tricks because it is the part of the process that clinches the elusion to the paragon of belief. So, lets take my example and go through the motion of events that played up until today, shall we…
We were asked six months ago if any employees wish to put their names into a list, so that we could be selected to work in a committee appointed by the employer. Now, remember, that is was only to be a very limited number of people, hand picked from the list of volunteers who would get the privilege of going around the work floor to get suggestions from their fellow workers on what they would like to see as far as this agreement goes. Now, you can tell from the onset that having a select group of employees, asking their coworkers what they would like to see as far as changes or better things from their employer would do? The instruction at this point is, “take those selections, then make a top ten list.”
Hello, where does the democratic portion fit in here. Who agreed with what here?
Now that a top ten list has being made, that list now goes to the managers, who in turn, will either juggle it, or merge it into something palletable to pass on to their superiors. Then, once all the corporation’s many outlets have submitted their top ten lists, supposedly, because once in the hands of management, no one really knows what process Actually goes on here, I can only assume that they take that list and somewhat work on seeing if they want to agree on in those terms.
Now, the trickery plays two fold here because the act of participating in the agreement takes a turn here. Did you have a true agreement here? Did you argue over terms and stipulations presented by the employer? Did you counter, bargained the agreement at any time here?
Well, several months later, the corporation returns a copy of it’s freshly minted “Employee Agreement” with fancy covering and loads of additional papers and FYIs to boot. It looks really impressive.
Trick number 2: You are ask to sign it. Now, my very first year working at the corporation, two things happened to me that made me sit up take notice to this little booklet. First, I was told by my hiring manager that this document was binding, that I must sign it in order to work. Secondly, when I received my first disciplinary notice, the statement told to me after I stated I was challenging it, was, “you sign this agreement and you will adhere to what it says,” namely that the employer can make the rules as they go, if the booklet does not cover that particular topic.
Now, in my training, schooling and research development work through college, the field of law takes many branches and subjects. One my interests in the field of law was contract law, more so to do will common law, as apposed to criminal law, which I also study. Anyway, something as basic as a contract can be misleading and it’s primary aim may be in duping the signee into agreeing to terms that they do not under stand or never bargained upon. Such agreements are automaticly voided out or stopped by means of a trial either with a sitting judge or by a arbitrator in the lower courts. Now in labour law, the law that governs the work place, many employers create a document that look similar to the law, however, claim it be an agreement. It looks and feels like a collective agreement but it is not. Only a Union can forge a collective agreement. However, we have law here, something that was created by a democraticly elected government that was appointed by the people to create laws that would protect people from these very things here!
How could you waive those rights given under law? Why would you want to?
One problem, in many work places seems is, how much rights does the employer have over the worker? This question has changed over the years, to the point that we are now hitting an apex of employer employee rights. We could be going into a state of devolution as the employee is loose more and more. Presently, we have elected a conservative government that calls itself Liberal. by siding with business and privatization, labour laws much make business and investing more attractive. It is hard for someone who is not Law save y to keep up with all the changes and understand the true width and breadth of labour law, however, several publishers have made great efforts in dealing with this.
But I do know that many employers who have gone into court, claiming that they were in the right when superseding their authority over law, by clinging to their employee agreements have failed and were punished quite heavily. Judges have made many comments that an employer’s agreement is only limited to the maximums of what the law says, not the minimums. It never circumnavigates around law in anyway whatsoever.
Yet every day, employees believe, those wonderful people who gave them that wonderful agreement that they have given so generously, should read between the lines. What they will discover might shock them. Asking questions is the only way to learn. Asking questions about fact and fiction, will make you a better person. Going to work and knowing your rights is one of the most powerful things to have in todays society. Not a tool to treat the employer as they do to you but, the power to quit, act upon, and work in a safe environment, is the most powerful tool an employee has. Think about it!