Monday, December 29, 2008

Surely you jest

In the latest edition of Morgenbladet, there's a story on how the faculty members at Trondheim and Sør-Trøndelag University College (HiST) are in uproar about having to keep hour lists in a centralized time bank starting in January. "Time registration is going to have devastating effects on the working environment and diminish the working conditions for the employees", says the union representative, and describes how he's been getting calls from distraught faculty members who find the new requirements to be disturbing and an encroachment on the academic freedom. Frode Nyeng, a Professor at HiST, states that this is outrageous to introduce time banks in the academic sector where people are strongly motivated and work far more than the required hours. Predictably, there are also vague threats as to how enforcing these hour lists could lead to students getting it in the shorts, as the faculty members would have no choice but to take time off due to their excessive and undue work load.

The administration at HiST is going to introduce the time bank irrespective of the complaints launched by the employees and the union. Specifically, the mandatory hour lists consist of registration in Excel sheets, where each employee is required to log the number of hour they work, both in the office and at home. No detailed information regarding what was done (teaching, research, administrative tasks, etc.) is to be entered in the Excel sheet, merely the number of work hours.

So what prompted the introduction of mandatory keeping of hour lists? The fact that the General Accounting Office (Riksrevisjonen) called HiST out on having paid an undue amount of overtime - to the tune of 11.8 MNOK in 2007.

Unless I'm missing something, you can't charge for overtime unless you're already keeping track of the number of hours worked. Moreover, if you're a faculty member in academia, you're paid a fixed salary based on an admittedly ficticious 37.5 working hours per week. If academic faculty members can actually get paid overtime based on this estimate, it's news to me.

"Our working conditions are based on trust and responsibility", says the union rep. No $hit, Mr. Hawking, which is why it reeks of weaselly conduct when employees contracted to a fixed salary claims overtime pay and refuse to document the extra hours.

Besides; if it's indeed true that employees at HiST work way more than the required 37.5 hours per week, then they would benefit greatly from tracking the hours. I certainly know that if I was allowed to charge the university for hours beyond the 37.5, I'd get a huge pay raise coming my way. As would my colleagues. Second, if the employees actually document that they're working way more hours than what their pay grade is designed for, then for sure they would have a monster card on hand during the salary negotiations, and a pretty solid argument for not downsizing employees, as this would lead to higher required workloads than what's legal. In an ideal world, documenting more than the required number of hours should leave the department no choice but to give out proportional pay raises, but let's stick to what's realistic.

Unless I'm missing out big time, there are only two possible reasons why the employees at HiST are not interested in keeping these hour lists, neither of which are favorable.

Let me end this post by asking anyone out there with a job in the real world: Would you get pissy if your employer made you keep hour lists after having claimed undocumented overtime for years?


Anders said...

Well, I can see some "problems" with keeping track of extra hours.

One, is the kind of guy who upholds an image of being effective, but in reality gets more done because he puts in 10 hour days.

Another, is the dedicated guy/ workoholic that puts in an illegal amount of extra time, and hence would be forced to take time of.

None of the above, actually charges for the extra time. I can't in my wildest dreams image a good reason for not document time that you claim pay for. Not even the "academic freedom" covers this. In no way.

Wilhelm said...

Exactly. Plus; there's also the possibility that documenting said hours might pose a problem for some.

Methinks the Lady doth protest too much.

Anders said...

Well, if you mean what I think you mean, then such indivdiuals shouldn't have any problem filling in fake hours in an excel sheet, no?

Let me end this post by asking anyone out there with a job in the real world:

Well, I'm out in the world where rouge unicorns doesn't pose an immediate threat, but I don't have a real job. Is that close enough?

Wilhelm said...

Well, if you mean what I think you mean, then such individuals shouldn't have any problem filling in fake hours in an excel sheet, no?

I don't necessarily think that said individuals would have the wits to neither anticipate nor deal with such issues, Anders.

Watch out for them rogue unicorns.