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On Call and Underpaid in IT/IS? 425

Posted by Cliff
from the fair-recompensation dept.
An Anonymous Coward asks: "I work for a Fortune 100 company, that I wish to remain anonymous. But recently an issue has come up dealing with on call pay; we are responsible for monitoring systems outside of normal business hours, but are hourly employees. It has been brought up to management if only being paid when an issue occurs is legal, since we must be ready at any moment to respond to system troubles/pages outside of the normal business hours we are paid for, which includes not being able to go out of town, etc. I've asked around, but with little success, being that a large portion of Slashdot readers are in the IT/IS field I would think that someone has dealt with simular issues and would be able to offer suggestions or outline their on call pay structure so that so that I can approach management/HR. Any examples of past experiences or how you dealt with such issues would be helpful, management is more than willing to work with us."
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On Call and Underpaid in IT/IS?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    I used to work in the IT department of a Canadian University. It was a Unionized environment. Members of the IT department who were forced to wear pagers were given a pay premium on regular wages. (e.g. $1/hr or similar)

    In addition, if you're called in to work, then you're paid hourly, and for a 3-hour minimum. (Travel time not included.) I think it was just a basic rate of pay (not overtime pay), but I might be mistaken.

    So those are the two standards you might present to the HR department:
    1. basic premium for being on-call
    2. compensation when called in
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Installed NT huh?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I agree, on-call equals working. At my last company, I began work as a contractor and after a few months decided to take the permanent position they offered. No matter what my status, I was always paid a fixed rate for on-call work. Everyone in the on-call rotation was given the same fixed amount for the week that they were on call, no matter how many times they were called. It seemed to work out fine.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I've had different experiences at different companies, some where worse then others. Currently(and best so far) I get $3 an hour during the week for on call, $6 an hour on the weekends or holidays. If I get paged, I get my hourly pay per each hour I'm working off hours and double time on the weekends or holidays. The worst experience was with an ISP that didn't pay on-call pay and you would be oncall for 2 or 3 weeks straight because there were only 2 people that did it. That really sucked. Hope this helps.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    If your employer needs to keep programmers (as opposed to operators/sysadmins) on call 24/7, then your software is not reliable enough. Even given that they are a hospital.

    Huh? that's like saying if airlines or taxi companies keep mechanics on "on call" duty it's because their planes/cars are not reliable enough.

    And in IT, not everyone uses stock programs. Many programs are CUSTOM WRITTEN for the client. And continually updated as new requirements arise. Software like is constantly in a beta state. And thus requires programming staff to handle bugs.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    IANAL

    You don't say where you live but as far as the 5th circuit (LA, MS, TX) is concerned, you are SOL if your employer doesn't want to play nice.

    I can't find the opinion on the 5th Circuit's web site but the cite will look something like Bright v. Houston Northwest Medical Center. Bright was on page 24/7 with a 20 minute response time. He sued for overtime, won at the district level, overturned on appeal and not accepted by the Supreme court.

    Good luck.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:59AM (#255565)
    I'm serious. I may sound like I'm being a dick, but it's true. The attitude of "I'm always on-call and can't do anything" is a direct result of trying to make yourself "too" indispensable. I'm working on getting over that myself, in fact, so I know what I'm talking about.

    If you're a member of a larger team, use a rotation, if you aren't already. It may take a cycle or two for everyone to being crosstrained enough to deal with basic daily issues, but in the long run, if it's someone else's week, you can actually go out of town!

    On the other hand, if you're like me, the "only" one who does specifically what you do, you still need to build up a crosstraining program with other people. Maybe you agree to pool some on-call responsibilities with other people in the same boat. The same thing will happen, after a few cycles of rotation, there will be sufficient knowledge for everyone to handle the basics.

    Management doesn't give a rat's ass who's on-call, who has the knowledge, how many people it takes to fix a problem. They just want it fixed. They aren't going to care whether or not your team (by org chart or as above, by need) is on a rotation or that it's not necessarily you that's fixing their problem. All they want is to make one phone call, and it gets fixed. It's up to you and your team to adopt a way of making that happen, and yes, it is possible without having to spend all your time waiting by the phone, car keys in hand.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:14AM (#255566)
    I am a unix admin at a big company as a contractor. I am salaried. Every 4 weeks I have to be on-call for one week. Any time I work during that week outside of my normal 8-5 Monday-Friday schedule, I am allowed to take off at some point in the next week. So if I come in on Saturday for instance, I could take Monday off. That seems like a pretty fair system to me. Also though, you can pretty much travel to whereever you want as there is an "on-call laptop" and modem that you can take with you when you are not at or near the office. That seems like a pretty reasonable system to me, and it usually isn't much of an inconvenience, until at about 1am, after 4 or 5 long islands your pager goes off, and you can barely make out the number, let alone start thinking about how to fix the problem. But, you shouldn't do that when you're on call. :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:03AM (#255567)
    Exactly! I work for a municiple government and am Unionized. And as luck would have it, this very topic came up in contract negotiations this last round! The Union proposed the following setup:

    Two tiers: On-Call, and Incident resolution
    On-Call
    Techs get paid $45/day regular-workweek, $60/day weekend ($90/holiday), for each 24-hour period on-call. Duties include:
    * Respond to page within 30 minutes
    * Able to be on-site within 60 minutes of response to page

    Incident response:
    2-Hours OT-pay (or hours-worked, which ever is larger) for over-phone or remote-login resolution
    4-Hours OT-pay (or hours-worked, which ever is larger) for on-site fix.

    Management rejected the on-call provision on the contract. So now, thanks to the Union, those employees formerly "on-call" have taken to leaving their pagers at work. And if their managers raise havock about that, the employees can point to the contract and say, "You can't force me to take this home with me," and be right.

    Sometimes, Unions are nice things.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:48AM (#255568)
    My current employer has an interesting way of calculating oncall pay....
    There are 168 hours in the week, we work in the office for 40 hours of the week ( thats covered by our regular salary ). For the other 128 hours of the week we get paid an hourly wage of 7.00 an hour, not bad for a week oncall ( and this is on top of our regular salary, but not exempt from the tax man ).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:18AM (#255569)
    How about a rotating night shift? Example, if your workplace has a bunch of IT workers and a server farm to keep up, set up a schedule to have one employee stay behind and camp out at the workplace for a 24 hour shift, and then get OT pay and some comp time, such as the next day off.

    For example, you would report to work at the normal time, say 8:00. But then at quitting time, take an hour dinner break, and then come back, and then camp out in the employee lounge or something, watch TV, surf the net, play games, raid the boss's office, etc., then sleep on the couch. If the trouble call comes at midnight, you're already there, so mash the reset button then go back to sleep. The next day, wake up, leave when the next shift comes on, go home and have a day off.

    This is the way it has always been done in the military, one person camps out in the headquarters building after business hours to answer phones, keep the computers up, prevent the male soldiers from raiding the female soldiers' barracks, etc., then get the next day off to do whatever; this is what's known as staff duty, or charge of quarters.

  • Because unions reduce freedom. In most unionized industries, I cannot get a job without being forced to join a union against my will and having the union extort money from me (in the form of dues). Plus unions tend to equalize pay, so the best employees get underpaid while the worst get overpaid (and it's hard to fire unionized employees so the crappy ones never get fired either). For example, there are very few good high-school-level science teachers, because in states with teacher unions they'd be paid the exact same as oversupplied social studies teachers. A school might be willing to pay extra for a good science teacher because of the greater demand for them, but the union won't let them. Then the few scientists who do decide to teach, who could've gotten hired easily on their own, are nonetheless forced to join a union, and on top of being stuck with the union-negotiated lower pay rates, are forced to pay dues to the union. "Rights of the workers" my ass.
  • Strawman. That's all I've got to say here.

    How so? This is what the poster wrote:

    all you do when you pass regulations and whine to the government about your labor relations is make businesses more expensive to run, ergo less money to attract more employees, ergo fewer people paid less.

    and before someone spews that employers are just greedy, remember that they are people too. happy employees make for a good working environment, which they like. better employees, for which they would pay more to get on their side, make for a good working environment, which they like.

    Seems to me that he's got a real thing against government regulation, like corps will just do the right thing all on their own because there's always a financial incentive to do so. I think that's stupid and gave an example of why. What's your problem with that?

  • by Danse (1026) on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:13AM (#255576)

    all you do when you pass regulations and whine to the government about your labor relations is make businesses more expensive to run, ergo less money to attract more employees, ergo fewer people paid less.

    Actually, you also make it illegal for companies to have people working in areas that are hazardous, often needlessly hazardous, especially without fully informing them of the hazards. This prevents corporations from doing the kinds of things that many of them do (or did) all the time. Namely lying to the employees about the nature of the substances they are working with or around, or skimping on safety equipment and training for employees. Sure, sometimes this can cause problems for the corp, but it has happened many times, so liability was obviously not a bigger consideration than the cost savings of not using proper equipment and procedures, etc.

  • I'm under a similar arrangement somehow. I have a set schedule, but am not compensated for when I'm called at say, 4AM because someone's stupid web site is down.

    The informal arrangement is that they can call me whenever they want, 24/7 365 days/year. I will allow myself to be reachable on weekends, holidays, vacations, etc with no compensation.

    In return, they understand that the time they are paying for, I may not be here! If I'm slated as an 11-7 employee and I come in at 12:30 and leave at 5pm, they can never complain.

    Of course, I don't do that every day since I'd be avoiding real work that I have, but it does mean that my schedule is extremely flexible.

    It'd be difficult to write this up into a formal contract, though. I just rely on them being cool. They used to complain, but once they saw what their options were, they were cool with it.

    Try to make one of these deals with your employer:

    • You will work every day 9am to 5pm, not a minute more, not a minute less. If something comes up at 5:07pm, it's someone else's problem. They can never call you before 9am or after 5pm on weekdays, and never on weekends.

    • You will be on call 24/7 365 with some days exceptions if given prior notice. They will compensate you for a 9-5 day but you only have to show up based on what needs to be done that day. That might mean you put in 3 hours that day, or that you put in a full 8.

    The later works better if you're a programmer since you tend to work on a deadline basis rather than a shift basis. Since you probably think about coding while laying in bed at night on the brink of sleep (maybe even pull a "Eureka!" or two), they should understand that you might be thinking of surfing while you're sitting at your desk.

  • by _damnit_ (1143) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:04AM (#255578) Journal
    I agree. In fact, my first boss here once told me, "If your pager's on... your working."
    Where I work, there are two of us with the same job function. Both of us are always on call with primary response alternating by week. We get paid 1 hr for every 6 on call on days that we are normally scheduled to work (Mon-Fri) and 1 every 4 hrs on days we are not scheculed to work (weekends and holidays). That's 2hrs a day weekdays and 6 hrs on weekends. If you get called in, that's 4 hrs regular pay plus time worked in OT.
    Now, this is just how we have it set up. IANAL, but I have always known my rights in California. The IWC requires employers to post the IWC's regulations in a place frequented by employees. Your state may by the same. Check out the info on their posted notices. In California, I don't believe the IWC has any regulations for on-call. I could be wrong though. The poster above had it right; contact a contract lawyer or get a paralegal to investigate whether there is any laws in your state. If there isn't and your employer really is amenable, contact other employees of similar companies and see what their compensation is. That is something HR should have been doing already.

    Best of Luck


    _damnit_
  • by hawk (1151) <hawk@eyry.org> on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:43AM (#255579) Journal
    I am a lawyer, but this is not legal advice. If
    you need legal advice, contact an attorney
    licensed in your own jurisdiction. (and for
    heavens sake, drop any notions about the law you
    picked up on slashdot on the way in!)


    He should definitely contact a lawyer, but what
    he needs is a labor lawyer, not a contract
    lawyer. I'm very well qualified as a contract
    lawyer, but, unless there was a prior
    relationship with the client (or unless I
    expected to see enough of these coming up to make
    it worth boning up on that area of the law far
    more than would be justified by the fee on a
    single consultation), I'd probably punt this to a
    labor lawyer. If there was a prior relationship,
    I'd probably hire or associate a labor lawyer.


    hawk, esq.

  • > Employers always want to take advantage of their labour.


    and employees always want to take advantage of their employer. The combination works quite well together :)


    While unions might be the answer, the fact that the workers *could* unionize is a stick on the workers side; some companies realize that they can keep a union out by treating the employees better than they could get with a union.


    Unions are a huge transaction cost. There's a whole lot of room for both sides to be happy if you divvy up the costs of running the union between lower costs for management and higher wages/perks/whaterver for labor . . .


    hawk, speaking as an economist this time

  • I mean, what kind of place would we live in if police only got paid for the arrests they made? That's a rediculous idea.

    You say that, but in the UK speed cameras are paid for out of the fines they collect. Local government gets the money it collects in parking fines. It's not that different.

  • There are other professions that need 24/7 coverage, and, are a little more important than a computer being up. Your local hospital, for instance.

    Note to slashbots: there are more computers in the world than the Linux box in your bedroom.

    I could go on to name any number of industries in which the computers must not stop, otherwise blood will be shed and/or millions of dollars will be lost. Hospitals are one of them.

  • Sounds like when tech support at my company started making quotas and bounties for support people writing tech bulletins. Support guys were cutting and pasting stuff from the manuals and turning them into tech bulletins. Or documenting trivial features and processes.

    If cops got paid by the collar, you can bet that the speeders would be pulled over at a much higher rate than the .001% they do now.
  • First of all I'm going to ignore the legal aspects of this: Hours, responsibilities, remuneration vary too much from nation to nation, jurisdiction to jurisdiction to make any really useful comments on.

    I'm also a bit biased as I'm a former tech now on the management side of things so adjust your perspective-compensators appropriately.

    There are two fundamental issues here: Planning & Job Descriptions.

    Without the planning in place there's no clear procedure to follow, no resources to assure are available, no guidelines on who is to be called and under what circumstances.

    Without the job descriptions done properly the Employees & the Employer are left without clarity on responsibility.

    All organizations should have clear guidelines for what systems are critical and which ones are merely important. All of these systems need to have plans detailing how they are to be handled in case of failure, what resources are required (people being the pertinent resources in this case) and how they are to be called upon.

    "Critical" systems need to have folks available to repair them - these folks are either required to be on site (either as part of a shift cycle, as simply their regular hours of work or "On Call") and generally involves some form of remuneration or explicit understanding with the folks keeping themselves available. This requirement must be written into a person's job description and be mutually agreed to. Simply expecting folks to make themselves available, not leave the area, etc. is unreasonable.

    Yes one may be "responsible" for the regular running of a system but off-hours, weekends & vacations are just that. Without that explicit understanding (and accompanying remuneration) one is free to lead one's life regularly during off-hours.

    That said there are various classes of reasons that might lead to an IS/IT employee being called in.

    "Emergencies" are just that - unanticipated events with significant immediate consequences. They are not part of normal operations; if they were they'd just be "Events". These happen very rarely in IS/IT and are only really legitimate in cases like consequences from a natural disaster, serious security breaches, systems failing that are not only mission-critical but are immediately mission-critical.

    Emergencies are cause for calling folks at home, expecting them to change their plans, come in & save the place. Management, both senior & middle are expected to come in and stay for the duration handling the emergency, its consequences, etc. You should expect to see at most one of these a year even if you're the sort of person who's going to get called in first if there's an emergency.

    If these happen more then once a year there's a problem with your operations. Either contingency planning is lax or your folks are cutting things too close to the edge. Whatever the case there's a fundamental problem that needs to be addressed at the very top levels.

    "Events" are when something happens that is unanticipated and will have serious consequences. If you've got five servers one going down is an event. If you've got 500 it's not, it's just another log-entry and following the procedure.

    Events are cause for calling the folks responsible for the affected systems and inviting them in. However as there should always be a contingency plan in place for these sorts of systems and On-Call folks qualified to handle the situation, at least in the immediate term.

    If one is not able to come in (and professionally one should if possible unless one is attending a funeral, caring for an ill child or some other pressing reason) then one is blameless but it would be nice to help out. By the way, an employee refusing to come in is not required to justify themselves unless there is, again, an explicit understanding regarding this sort of situation. "I am/was busy" is good & sufficient reason for an average employee to decline coming in.

    Finally there simply good ole Things-That-Happen. The same as during normal operation systems fail, wires get cut, folks working off-hours have problems. Every organization generally has times of full-service and times with decreased service-levels.

    It's up to Management to decide what levels of service are appropriate to what times and to assure that adequate resources are made available. This may involve folks on-site, folks on-call, or simply not offering a response 'till a later time.

    There are cases, generally in poorly run places where unscrupulous management will attempt to define all issues as emergencies and expect all staff to act as on-call staff. This is of course ridiculous.

    I once had a former employee told by his new employer "Emergencies happen - it's part of the job" after being called in 3-4 nights a week and at least once every weekend for several months.

    These aren't "Emergencies" - they're clearly part of normal operations for the place and should be considered as such (and the management that allows such a poor state of affairs to happen should be replaced.)

    What can an employee do? Insist that there be guidelines implemented. Insist that their job description be clarified. This holds true for all classes of persons: Saleried, hourly, and contracted. If one is directly contracted then make sure this is addressed in your contract. If one is sub-contracted (agency staff, whatever) then speak to the folks who issue your paycheck, get this clarified and that you're ok with it.

    Frankly as I told my abused former-staffer (who was once in the middle of some long-anticipated sex when called go into work for a bogus problem, and went!) just reply that you're too drunk to come into work. That's probably not the best response but it communicates one's unavailability in spite of being reached on the phone.

    Other more reasonable responses include insisting all "Emergencies" be treated as such with some sort of procedure being followed. Clearly an "Emergency" requires an follow-up investigation into it's causes, an evaluation of how the department performed, some sort of report detailing what happened & how it can be avoided / better handled in the future. This kind of investigation & documentation are anathema to a manager who's using this as an "out" & will quickly put and end to this sort of monkey business.

    Another is to simply make this technique onerous on the (ir)responsible management. You get called in (in it's not legitimately part of your job, your goodwill has been exhausted) then make sure other folks suffer. Call your manager, report what you're planning to do, get permission. This is best done at 3am. Then again at 4am with a follow-up. If they're not available find something that will need authorization & follow the chain of command... Up.

    Then there's simply taking the time off the next day. Called in at 2am for an hour? Come in an hour late the next day. Spent Saturday fielding phonecalls? Monday out & meetings be damned, your schedule was.

    Yes this is dangerous stuff, calling the CIO at 5am is not to be done lightly. Nor is adjusting one's schedule. Indded this sort of thing can quickly lead to poor future prosdpects if not simlpe termination. However if one is well & truly being screwed it will definitely bring attention to the problem.

    Frankly as a Manager I've sometimes instituted the policy that for every call-in the person's Supervisor be called also. This generally provides a great deal of incentive not to abuse folks and makes robust planning much more attractive. Other policies that work are the full-invstigation & report as noted above.

    Finally, try and be flexible. Yes there are times that one will likely be called on above & beyond the usual call of duty. A good employer will respect their employees and show appreciation. Try and give the benefit of the doubt and assume that this will be the case & that some good will come of what's happening. If not, well start shopping that resume.

  • by Jeffrey Baker (6191) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:50AM (#255588)
    The time is yours. You must decide what you think is fair. If you are not allowed to go out of town on certain days, you should decide how much money that means to you, demand it from your employer, and either get it or walk away. If monitoring servers takes away from your spare time, you should set a value on that. Each individual is responsible for his own compensation.

    My advice can only come from my own perspective. In any job, I insist that the duties are specifically detailed and known in advance. I do not put up with open-ended assignments, or requests to work outside of normall business hours which are brought up less than two weeks in advance. After all, I notify my employer two weeks before I intend to take vacation, or resign. If your job consists of monitoring operations at certain times of the day, week, or month, I would simply require that all those hours spent monitoring operations be compensated at the hourly rate. If you have to be on-call but not actively working, bill those hours at a reduced rate, but bill them just the same.

    Tech workers who put up with a lot of BS should get paid for it. Auto mechanics and welders leave their work behind at 5:00 spot on, their brains synchronized precisely to the atomic clock of the Naval Observatory. The electricians and builders who work in my building work, by my honest observation, 2 hours per day. They certainly can't be reached outside of the 9:00-15:00 time window. If your employer wants you to spend your entire life at work, you should either say no or get paid accordingly.

  • I was a salaried employee at one place, and as part of downsizing they decided that developers should take part in tech support. So we took turns carrying a beeper. No compensation, just the laudable privilege of helping out our employer. Now I always make sure to make that a negotiating point -- if they won't put a "no beepers" clause in the contract, it means extra money.
  • I work for a LARGE IT house. I am oncall 7/24 2 weeks out of 10. Thye group I work for has arrived at that so we are NOT on-call all the time for our own systems. The standard recompense it comp-time. We normally receive 4 hours for responding to a call. This accounts for the 02:30 call that wakes you up until 05:00. The company expects a response with 15 minutes to a sub-set of critical systems and 2 hours for the rest. When I first started we were on-call for the 30 or so systems we were each responsible ALL THE TIME and IT SUCKED. We gathered all the sysadmins together and worked out this deal amongst us, along with an emergency call list, for help. Much of this depended on the fact that our director was/is an old operations guy who is sympathetic to our cause, without his patronage we'd probably be in the old boat on-call all the time. The life of a unix sysadmin DOES have its downsides :)
  • by nilepoc (7329) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:17AM (#255593) Homepage Journal
    I am an RN and When I choose to take a call shift, I get $2.50 an hour for each hour that I am tied to my cell phone. If called in, I get double time. While this is not the IT/IS industry, I do know that the hospital IS/IT people get the same deal. As an added bonus, since call is a requirement for the job, I get to write off a portion of my cell phone bill.
  • by fishbowl (7759) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:19AM (#255594)
    Call the Social Security office, explain your
    concern in terms of the amount of the SS
    "contribution" versus your hours. If there
    is any discrepancy between the hours you
    worked and the amount of social withheld,
    the Atty General of your state might become
    very interested in matters.

  • This is a labor law violation. As an engineer
    working on salary I am free after hours. For
    people paid hourly the laws are clear that
    after 40 hours you must get overtime pay.

    Keep in mind though that people who sue
    their employer rarely get hired when new
    potential employers find out about it.
    You should look for another job if you can't
    convince your employer to treat you correctly.

    Bringing lawyers into this may just hurt
    your future employment. Most employers will
    have nothing to do with employees who sue
    their employer.

  • IANAL: In a past job I worked which was fulltime but no explicit contract this is what I discovered for my state (FL).

    If the company limits your travel while on call then they must compensate you for this.
  • Count your blessings my friend. Many "On Call" individuals that I know are salaried. That means that no matter how many pages you answer and how many hours you work you are paid the same amount.
  • by rnturn (11092) on Monday April 30, 2001 @12:39PM (#255610)
    ``Yeah, if you like being compaired to truckdrivers and trashmen.''

    Well, that doesn't seem to bother airline pilots, physicians in some areas of the U.S., and even college faculty The common denominator seems to be that the unions pop up in support of vocations where managements feels that need to attempt to coerce employees to do more and more work without the proper compensation.

    I'd bet that many of the bad feelings that many people have regarding unions have to do with the pressures by their locals to vote as a block in elections, not-so-subtle suggestions that the members make campaign contributions to candidates that the members don't support, and other forms of corruption. If those could be avoided (fat chance, though, IMHO), I'd bet that more people would favor union membership. (And lest you think I'm some bleeding heart liberal, the preceding comments come from an avowed anti-unionist.)


    --

  • by winterstorm (13189) on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:28AM (#255616)

    OK, all these people talking about lawyers are off-topic. The guy just wanted to know how everyone else working in IT is treated. Put your lawyer back in its holster and calm down.

    I'm a contractor at one of the big telcos in north america. They follow some business practices set down as standard by GTE, so what I describe is probably common to many big companies and this should give you an idea of how the rest of us are treated.

    Here are the rules regarding being "on-call" as they were described to me:

    • You get paid for work you do "on-call" as overtime
    • You get paid an hour of over-time for every weekday that your on call even if you don't get called.
    • You get paid 1.5 hours of over-time for every day your on-call on the weekend even if you don't get called.
    • Contractors can't be put on-call unless there is no normal employee to do the job.
    • When your on call you can't drink or go out of town. You need to be able respond in whatever time is dictated by the duties for which your on-call for (where I work that means you have to be able to get to a phone within 15 minutes and to a network-connected computer with 30 minutes)

    Basically you should be paid a little something because they are asking you to do something for them outside your normal duties; they are asking you to stay alert and ready and to restrict your life to not include activities that would prevent you from doing your "on-call duties" at a moments notice. Where I work they pay you an hour of overtime just for being on-call even if you don't get called. If you get called, you just get over-time pay for the time you work (1 hour minimum). On the weekends you get paid a bit more because the company is asking a bit more to restrict your activities on the weekend!

    There are also rules where I work about how long someone can be on call (two weeks max before another employee has to become the "on-call" person).

  • by bobdehnhardt (18286) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:42AM (#255623)
    Amen! My cell phone and pager are always on, always nearby, and have interrupted more evenings and weekends than I care to remember. And according to the rules of exempt employment, not only do I not collect overtime, I also can't accrue comp time for the extra hours I work.

    When you're salaried, you're paid to get the job done, however long it takes. Hours don't count. And if the job includes being on call, well, them's the breaks....
  • by bobdehnhardt (18286) on Monday April 30, 2001 @01:40PM (#255624)
    What you say also applies here, but only for hourly employees (which would include part time). Exempt employees are a different story.

    First of all, IANAHRPerson, but I have discussed this with one as part of my hair-pointening promotion. This is going from memory and rather sparse notes, and may apply only to California. YMMV.

    There are certain requirements for becoming an exempt employee. Advanced degrees are one way of "qualifying", but not the only one. You can be made exempt if you are in a "professional" career field, or perform functions that the company have deemed to be absolutely vital. It's been my experience that this is how most IS/IT types get made exempt (it's certainly true in my case, as I have no advanced degree, and have been an exempt employee at various companies for over 15 years).

    Once you are exempt, you get paid a flat salary to perform the functions listed in your job description (including the infamous "other duties as assigned"). You are paid based on your job performance and completion of your assigned duties. Hours do not enter into the fomula at all; in fact, if they do, your exempt status comes into jeopardy.

    Suppose I go home sick after working 2 hours. A hourly employee would get charged 6 hours sick time. But as an exempt employee, I should not be charged for any sick time - I worked part of that day, so I get paid for the full day. Breaking it down into "2 hours worked, 6 hours sick" shifts the pay charging from "job/task based" to "hour based". The same goes for running errands during the day, doctors appointments, and the like. If I make up the time, I jeopardize my exempt status. I get paid to get the work done, no matter how many (or few) hours it takes.

    So, if you're exempt, and your boss is making you take partial sick or vacation time, s/he may be jeopardizing your exempt status. Check with your HR rep.

    Now, to go with this, if my job duties require me to put in 50-60 hour weeks, come in on weekends, be on-call 24/7 (which, at times, it does), well, that's the other side of the coin. As an exempt employee, you should not get any sort of additional official compensation, either in salary or time off, for these extra hours.

    Note that I said "official" - most managers (and I'm one of them) will cut their exempt employees some extra slack when they've been putting in extra hours. A lot of time, it's "work at home" time, where they're officially on the job, but unofficially at the beach. Money's harder to do - I've received extra stock options "in recognition of my efforts and value to the company", but that requires action at the Board level (at least, it does in our company). It's tough for managers to give monetary perks to their overworked exempt employees.

    Anyway, that's my understanding of the difference between hourly and exempt employees.....
  • by JF (18696) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:44AM (#255625)
    I'm personnally not paid for being on call. I simply get the hours I work on emergency off the next week, or something similar.

    Being paid by the hour, it would only be appropriate that you are paid when you're on call, perhaps on a reduced $$/hour. That's what was happening at my previous place of employment.
  • by KFury (19522) on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:27AM (#255626) Homepage
    You'd bill overtime rates even if you didn't actually work 40 hours? My understanding (IANAL) is that overtime kicks in when actual hours of labor exceeds 40/week or 8/day (depending on local law), irrespective of your flat hour rate.

    Is this a money grab? Or do you think you deserve time and a half after working 8 hours in a week?

    Kevin Fox
    --
  • by Hackysack (21649) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:47AM (#255633)
    I've seen a few ways of doing this.

    The one which I though was the most fair, was a setup I had at a company a few years back.

    When on-call, you'd get an hourly rate for incidents. The smallest increment was 1 hour, with a 4 hour base. In other words if it took me 30 mins to resolve a problem, I'd get to bill for 4 hours.

    If it took me 4.5 hours to fix a problem, I would get to bill for 5 hours.

    Additionally, you got 8 hours "for free" for carrying the phone per week. It's not really "free" as is mentioned in the article header, but it seemed enough.

    On a good week, you'd get 8 hours to haul around a cellphone. On a bad week you'd easily be able to get 40+ hours of overtime while working about 8.

    Seemed fair to me.
  • by alkali (28338) on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:07AM (#255638)
    Following up my own post, here is an even more recent opinion [findlaw.com] from Oklahoma involving a couple of electronics technicians "on call." They had better luck than the EMTs. The most significant fact seems to be how frequent the calls are.

    (Incidentally, I should also say that the questioner's state may have state wage-and-hour laws that are more generous than the federal laws. Whether this is so naturally depends on the state.)

  • by alkali (28338) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:21AM (#255639)
    Maybe the questioner should see a labor lawyer.

    In the USA, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires (1) that hourly workers be paid for hours worked and (2) that they be paid overtime for hours worked in excess of 40. The obvious question is how "on call" time fits into this system.

    The Department of Labor's FLSA regulations [dol.gov], particularly this one [dol.gov], suggest that "on call" time doesn't count as work time for purposes of the FLSA. (If the employee is actually called, however, that would seem to be different -- see this regulation [dol.gov].)

    This recent opinion [findlaw.com] from Wisconsin involving EMTs "on call" discusses a very close case, and is interesting.

  • by ThePlague (30616) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:37AM (#255644)
    According to the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, it is in a superposition of states comprised of "gone off" and "not gone off" until a measurement operator is applied. That is, until someone listens to it.
  • by ThePlague (30616) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:21AM (#255645)
    You are correct if the question was posed by someone under contract. However, if one is a full-time employee, then the odds are that an explicit contract does not exist. As the person in question is hourly, this is almost certainly the case. Regardless of the situation of the original poser, it is an relevant question to which the response "See a contract lawyer" is not suitable to many IT workers.

    Re-phrasing the question may be of benefit:

    What are the standards of practice for on-call duty?

    Are you compensated for time on-call, or only for the time actually needed to respond to an emergency?

    If you are paid for time on-call, what is the rate?

  • I ran into one outfit where the sysadmins rotated duties, and the one on duty had to be within reach of their home computer (with VPN) at all times. In theory, they weren't allowed to go out to get a gallon of milk while on duty.

    Another situation required sysadmins to be phonable (not merely pageable)--they required that the sysadmin had a cell phone. Amazingly, they refused to pay the cell bill.

  • Ooh. Assigned and rotated?

    I've run into a place where you were assigned and not rotated. That is, you would be on call for months at a time.

    It was generally conceded that this setup blew industrial strength chunks...

  • Of course, you are hourly, so this may or may not work for you. But give it a try, maybe. For us salary employees, we each get a turn on the on-call pager. We have to carry it and be responsible for pages 24/7, for seven days. Then, we hand the pager over to the next guy.

    ...and the compensation? We get Friday off.

    ...and how was it handled? Rather than our bosses going and negotiating with HR (pointless), they handled it on their own. We stay at home, but as far as the bean counters know, we were here the full day.

    Might work well for your situation, too. Depends on your management.
  • by cornjones (33009) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:14AM (#255651) Homepage
    OK, this may be OT but it wouldn't be a safe world at all. as the police arrest more people, you are saying there will be less crime. i'll give you that point. so there is less crime. but the cops still need to make a living wage so they will either start arresting for small infractions or planting evidence and booking people for non existant crimes.

    doesn't sound too safe to me.

    ej
  • as this discussion came up before here [slashdot.org].
  • by norton_I (64015) <hobbes@utrek.dhs.org> on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:40AM (#255673)
    If your employer needs to keep programmers (as opposed to operators/sysadmins) on call 24/7, then your software is not reliable enough. Even given that they are a hospital.

    This is just not true. Any custom software system should have a developer on call whenever there is a sysadmin on call. The sysadmin needs someone to call if there is a problem with the application. Even the most reliable software will occasionally have problems, even if only due to other system failure.

    For instance, "The archive log destination filled up, and Oracle hung, so there are 300 wedged application processes, how to I unwedge them safely".

    The place I used to work, we had a "development pager" that we passed around and the sysadmin/DBA could page if they needed to. I got beeped usually no more than once a month, unless we were doing a software upgrade and the developers forgot to tell the sysadmins about something. Also, our DBA sucked, and I was better at Oracle than him, so if he was stumped, he would call me.

    The way we handled on-call time was pretty informal, but it worked for the low volume of calls we had. We were all on salary, so, we would pass the pager around between three of us, and if someone wanted to go out of town for the weekend, they would just pass it off. If the call volumes were higher, I would have wanted something more rigid, but this wasn't bad.

    The sysadmins were also salaried, but I believe their contracts stipulated a certain amount of on call time. They didn't get bonus pay for answering calls, which they probably should have. Also, as sysadmins left for greener pastures, the remaining ones ended up with more on-call time.

  • by Tora (65882) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:57AM (#255678)
    Danger, Will Robinson! Push that button and the suits will just put you on salary. They prefer that anyway. Just be glad you actually get paid more for doing on-call support.
  • by doonesbury (69634) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:28AM (#255681) Homepage

    This might help out; in most states, if there's a restriction on your movements & your behavior, you probably should be getting paid for each and every hour you're on duty.



    http://www.nolo.com/encyclopedia/articles/emp/onca ll.html [nolo.com]

  • by slag187 (70401) <geoff@@@zorched...net> on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:40AM (#255682) Homepage
    Most tech workers have this weird notion that they couldn't be union members for some reason. There's been this mis-information that if you went to college, or you don't come home from work dirty that you can't be a Union member.

    But look at what you are doing - compare that to what a skilled worker in a factory does. It is virtually the same thing. But because one person wears jeans and a work shirt and the other wears a tie, they think they have nothing in common.

    I'm serious about this. You are in the same postition as an average factory worker - where you are expected by the bosses to do things and not be compensated fairly. It's time for tech workers to get together and help each other out. It will make all of our lives better.

    We don't hire people, or fire people, or make decisions on pay and raises. You're a worker, just the same as a person in a steel mill or a person making clothes. Your tools are computers instead of hammers or CAD/CAM driven lathes.

    Ok, I'll get off the soap box now. :)
    What do people think? Why no big tech union?
  • by Bagheera (71311) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:40AM (#255683) Homepage Journal
    You're quite right. /. is not the place to ask for legal advice. The thing is though, the poster wasn't asking for legal advice. He was asking for other IT professionals to share their experience and pay structures.

    If he's looking for contract advice, I'd say "Talk to a lawyer." If he's asking for shared experience, I'd say:

    "Depending on what company I was working for, the On-Call person would get a premium of between $50 and $250 a week to carry the duty pager."

    That's not legal advice. That's a shared experience - what he was asking for...

  • by Lxy (80823) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:44AM (#255691) Journal
    I work for a smaller company as a sys admin, so I'm often on call. The nice thing is that management understands (is that an oxymoron?) that I can't be home 24/7 on weekends ready to go *IN CASE* the server farm decides to melt down or something. At my company, we do quadruple redundancy. Every 4th week, I'm the primary contact. I either need to fix it if I'm home, or call one of the other 3 "stand by" techs if I can't. It's worked well in that we've never experienced more than a half hour of downtime using this system, even at 2 AM when a hard drive died once. Also, when I do get called in, I get paid a buttload of overtime (especially between 12 and 7 AM) so it's worth my while.

  • by teho (80984) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:05AM (#255693)
    Take a look at the last article Cliff ran on On-Call support, many many answers there. http://slashdot.org/askslashdot/00/10/17/1844229.s html [slashdot.org]
  • I worked for HP for 5 years as a unix admin for manufacturing sites. I was always part of an on-call rotation. HP has what it calls GAP. It stands for Guaranteed Availability Pay. Basically, instead of paying you only when you get called in (and encouraging unreliable systems), they would pay you for being on-call. There would be no extra pay beyond GAP for a call-in.

    I though this made a lot of sense because you still got paid even if there were no problems. It really encouraged you to make the systems as reliable as possible.
  • by Wind_Walker (83965) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:43AM (#255698) Homepage Journal
    Use the counterexample that police/fire fighters are paid for their time spent, even though they do very little in terms of trying to counteract the occasional crisis that comes up.

    I mean, what kind of place would we live in if police only got paid for the arrests they made? That's a rediculous idea.

    ------
    That's just the way it is

  • by treat (84622) on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:38AM (#255699)
    Isn't it worth having some idea of where to begin before consulting a lawyer? Just as it is good to search the net for medical advice before consulting a doctor. You have no idea about the competency of the "professional", and it's impossible to judge. When you walk in there without a clue, you are begging to be exploited.
  • by neoflux (85366) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:49AM (#255702)
    I have often had this same discussion with my wife, who is a nurse at one of the top ten hospitals in the country. When she is on call, she receives approximate 20% of her hourly rate while she is waiting for an emergency. If she needs to respond (aka go to work), she receive time and a half, whether or not she is over 40 hours. Please note that she must arrive within 45 minutes.

    From what I understand, this is close to the industry standard for the medical practice. Why should IT reinvent the wheel? IMHO if this is adequate compensation for those saving lives, it should be more than adequate for those who are stuck with the less important task of keeping uptime.
  • by Sax Maniac (88550) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:23AM (#255707) Homepage Journal
    There are other professions that need 24/7 coverage, and, are a little more important than a computer being up. Your local hospital, for instance.

    Know some nurses? The ones I know get a flat-fee of $X for being on call for that night. It is, of course less than the full hourly rate, but you get it whether or not you're called in.

    The call lasts a specific time, after which, the pager is shut off. That pay is mandatory in exchange for losing your life for one night: can't go out and drink, can't travel, etc. When you come in, you're on the clock, quite possibly for overtime.

    It doesn't quite sound legal to expect you to be on-call 24/7 for free. Don't stand for it. Find out what your rights are and assert them, or move on.

  • by TheReverand (95620) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:41AM (#255720) Homepage
    Pay him $250. Ask him to read your contract and advise you. Don't listen to anything anyone on this website tells you. It will be invalid advice. The previous statement does not apply to me.
  • by rikkards (98006) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:21AM (#255723) Journal
    I just called the labour board here for this since they handed me a pager that I am supposed to carry around at all times since I am the sole IT admin for a 50+ workstation network. According to the ministry, if I get called in the company has to pay me either full pay for the time I am in or minimum wage * 3hrs. That is the minimum that the company has to shell out.
  • by lemming552 (101935) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:51AM (#255730) Homepage Journal
    Back in 1995 when I was doing on-call IT, I was paid a salary, but when you were on-call you were paid 25% of what your salary worked out to be. The first month I was there I was the only on-call person, so I was getting a 150% of a paycheck. The system that I was babysitting needed all the attention during that time. That settled down once we had installed a reliable server and a few more people.
  • by SirWhoopass (108232) on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:03AM (#255741)
    You're jumping to conclusions. You assume that being on-call was part of the existing contract. I work for a major university and the civil service union does the bargaining for my job. The rules are very specific.

    I would guess that the previous contract said people had to work 40 hours per week and then got x% for overtime. Then the need for on-call employees arrived (relatively new- before pagers/cell phones you had night shifts for critical tasks). The union tried to define rules for working on-call. The management rejected it and therefore, people still only have to work 40 hours per week.

    I agree that unions can abuse their power. People, however, don't unionize for the fun of it. Unions exist where management got greedy and screwed up big time.

  • by Steepe (114037) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:39AM (#255746) Homepage
    Yea, I really want to pay someone dues to give me the same lame contract everyone else gets, when I can negotiate myself much more, (always have, always will) I was in a union once, they took a crapload of my money to get me less money than I got at my next job, which I negotiated for myself, and was non union.

    Unions are even more corrupt than corporations. I will never again work for a union. They tell you what you can make, when you can do what, what you can do at work, and even how to vote. I was pressured many times by the union I was in to vote screaming liberal.

  • Here's how I hear this question: "I am not being treated fairly. Management is not paying me for my time. Does anyone have an example of how other companies treat their employees fairly?"

    If your girlfriend was shitty to you, would you ask "My girlfriend doesn't treat me the way I'd like to be treated. Do other people have girlfriends who are nice to them?" Or would you say to her "Hey, shape up or we're breaking up?"

    Who cares what other people do? It's YOUR situation. Don't waste your time talking on Slashdot. Any employer who isn't going to pay you fairly sure isn't going to give Shit One about what a bunch of /.ers say about things.

    I have to assume from the passive voice ("It has been brought up to management") that you, personally, have not discussed with your boss, and you're repeating what you've heard in conversations you've had with others in hushed tones, crouched behind your cubicle walls.

    Talk to your boss directly and say "I count these hours as being working hours for reasons X, Y and Z, and I expect to be paid for them." If they're not amenable to that, then leave. Go to someone who does want to pay you fairly.

    And to those who have posted "form a union!", I would suggest that if people like AC would stand up to the PHBs & their companies (or better yet, communicate with management before any of this comes down), we wouldn't NEED unions.

    Your employer is not your parent. You are not required to work there. It's a relationship. If you're not holding up your end of the relationship, you get fired. So, too, should your company get fired if they're not holding up their end of things.
    --

  • by nhavar (115351) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:39AM (#255753) Homepage

    Okay I don't think I'm following the logic here.

    Management rejected the On-call scenario presented by the Union, therefore the Union did not get their requested options in the contract, which to me makes it sound like the Union LOST. So if the Union LOST how does it turn right back around and get it's way. How is the employee "right" by refusing to do his/her contractually obligated job?

    To me this just sounds like the "bullet proof union employee" crap. Instead of Union employees showing what they are worth by doing good honest work and being an asset to the company that they work for they band together and hold the company hostage for more pay, less work, more comps. The company has very little it can do because if they refuse the contract the Union employees just slow production, walk away, or sit and because of other similar contract negotiations the company has little they can do to get workers back on the line except give in to the Union demands.

    I've seen some crappy stuff done by Unions. Mostly it's mid contract renegotiations siting "safety concerns" - which typically get pressed while the extra money and comps part gets quietly stuck somewhere in the back and glossed over by the spinnners. "Oh yeah we are requesting a small monitary change, but the main issue is safety."

    As you can tell my biased opinion is that Unions are just organized extortion, protection for employees but only the ones who pay. Notice some of the dot com layoffs that have happened union employees are the last to go. Not because of their intrinsic value but because of the contractual obligations set forth and the added cost laying off union employees would entail.

    When you stop worrying about your job security you get lazy. I've seen Union employees come to work drunk, stoned, sleeping on the job, get hurt due to their own negligence, refuse work and yet the employer is unable to terminate because the Union won't allow it. Solidarity and all.

    Back to the topic on hand: You should be able to speak with your employer and discuss your issues amicably. If you cannot do this it's probably a good sign that the employer you are with is not where you should be. There are many many companies out there that are willing to compensate their employees adequately for their time and good work. I would suggest that you approach your employer and if they are unwilling to set a monitary value to compensate you for your time they might find another mechanism for support. Collect some data to take with you such as yearly support cost from third party vendors, comparisons of other support mechansisms pros/cons, salary/hourly comparisons of other IT workers and plans. Market your skills show them that they should be paying you according to your worth to the company and the value that you bring in your service.

    Personally I'm on call on a rotation basis, primary one week, secondary one week, then off one week. I'm not penalized if I don't answer a call because there is a secondary, as long as I'm not abusive about it. I can usually work out any out of town time with my coworkers to provide adequate support for the company. My compensation is my salary plus a yearly bonus equivelant to 10% (up to 20%) of my salary and a minimum of 4% (max 10%) raise per year, all based off of MY performance. This is what I negotiated with my employer for my valued services. Look at the task from a partnering point of view instead of a us/them point of view and things go amazingly well.

  • by Yekrats (116068) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:32AM (#255755) Homepage
    Note, that I'm not a lawyer... I had a similar experience which may or may not relate to your case. That being said...

    Wow, your situation is so similar to what happened to me three years ago, it's almost as if I wrote it myself. Here's the scoop on how I got my own back pay.

    I used to work for a major financial institution in their IT office, and like you, I was an hourly employee forced to work after hours on-call work. ("It's part of the job," they said.) Well, I had an inkling it wasn't right, but I didn't argue. Nor did I question it, until the on-call time became oppressive. Since taking the job, we went from being a 8am-10pm shop with one location to a 24/7 shop with multiple locations nationally. It became common to recieve three or four calls during the night. The employer also changed us from hourly to salary employees to avoid paying us overtime.

    Then I picked up a very good book at my local library: Every Employee's Guide to the Law [amazon.com]. I highly recommend it!

    Please read the book for a better description... But to sum up, there are two kinds of employees: Hourly and Salaried. Hourly employees *must* be paid at least time-and-a-half overtime pay. Period. They can't be compensated with "comp time" or bribed with Rice Krispy Treats. No, as I understand it, the employer must pay 1.5 x Hourly Pay for every hour worked overtime during a week. That little poster in the break room just about sums it up. To compensate for less (or not at all, like some posters are infering) is illegal.

    If you're on-call, you get hours for everything you do for the company, but not necessarily for waiting around for the beeper to go off. So, if during the night you get called at 1:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m., and work a half an hour on each, you've worked 1 hour of overtime.

    There are pretty strict rules for who can be an Salaried employee. Basically, someone has to have "advanced training" (ie. college degree) or else fit into certain classes of employee. (Managerial or secretarial). If you are a salaried employee, you are the whippin' boy of your employer. They can do anything... ask you to work any amount of time, and it's your job to do it with a smile. Since I did not have a computer degree, and the job was formerly an hourly position, I was made an salaried employee illegally.

    I'd advise checking with the US Department of Labor closest to you. There's probably one in your state. You can have questions answered without "turning them in." You can even request a complaint form. Have it ready, in case things go awry.

    In the US, we have whistleblower laws to protect people from employers who try to punish those that turn them in for wrongdoings. If the thought of losing your job concerns you, you can turn them in anonymously. You have some leverage on your side. If an employer is sued for breaking this law, they generally pay through the nose. I forget the exact figures.

    However, I spoke to my employer one on one about the law, and about my findings. I went armed with information, I backed up my evidence, and my manager took the information to H.R., who talked to the corporate lawyer. Well, what-do-ya-know, I was right. We had our back pay "expidited". I had it within a month.

    Little will strike fear into your company more than the dreaded "Department of Labor Audit". (Well, maybe a "software audit"...) If the government has reasonable cause, they'll send a bunch of flunkies over and go through your local HR office with a fine-tooth comb. They'll check every employee over, interview disgruntled employees, and tie up the whole office in a paperwork quagmire. 'T ain't pretty, I bet.

    Information is your friend. Fortunately, I had documented almost all of the time I had been on-call. You need documentation to be able to prove your case.

    So, I wish you the very best of luck. Read the book, get yourself a lawyer, talk to the Department of Labor.

    --HTH, Yekrats

  • by Dark Paladin (116525) <jhummel&johnhummel,net> on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:10AM (#255756) Homepage

    I had a job with Philips/Magnavox (a small branch operation, mind you, but part of the system). Because we had marketers in every part of the world, it was decided that their machines always had to be running, therefore, the IT Dept always had to be working.

    I wasn't opposed to the basic idea of this - except that they didn't want to hire more people to cover the time. So 2 people who usually covered an 8 hour shift were suppose to trade off a cell phone between the two of us, and always be available during that time. If one of us took a vacation, tough - the other guy was then on for a 24 hour shift. But since we were salary, we didn't get 24 hour pay. If you were having sex with your wife and that damned phone rang, you had to answer it.

    I left. If a company wants to provide a warm body for support, then make them pay for it. There's no excuse for "well, we need this so you do it so you get to work it". Its better for the users to have someone in the building when they call, then somebody sitting in a theater who has to run out to the hallway and figure out why somebody can't get to their email through the phone connection.

    Of course, I could be wrong.


    John "Dark Paladin" Hummel

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:31AM (#255762) Homepage
    A typical deal in the services industry is half-pay for on-call time. [seiulocal399.org]

    There's a survey report [nefried.com] available on this subject, but the full text is $395.

  • by YIAAL (129110) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:42AM (#255773) Homepage
    If you're on-call, you're working. Wouldn't they fire you if you turned off your pager? If so, then you're working and should be paid.
  • by dzimmerm (131384) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:45AM (#255775) Homepage Journal

    It depends on the state you live in. In ohio they basically said that if you do not like the company and its conditions, quit. That was the only way to get out of having to do what they asked as a condition of employment.

    Other states probably have different attitudes. The place where I checked was the wage and hour division of the state government.

    Good Luck,

    dzimmerm

  • by JiveDonut (135491) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:49AM (#255780) Homepage
    If your pager goes off and there is no one there to respond, has it really gone off?

    The answer of course, is "no".

  • by jcapell (144056) <jcapell@yahoo.com> on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:55AM (#255790) Homepage
    by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Agreement for the University of Michigan

    Article XIV: On-Call Pay [umich.edu]

    Quoting:

    Each employee specifically designated as in an "on-call" status shall be paid twenty percent (20%) of the job rate for his/her classification for hours spent in that status. Employees, when designated for on-call status, are required to restrict their whereabouts to the extent that they are required to leave word at their home or with their supervisor where they can be reached and be in a position to return to work immediately when called. Upon return to work, such employees are not eligible for call back or reporting pay, as provided in Articles XII and XIII, nor for on-call pay while at work, but shall be paid their regular hourly rate, plus shift premium or special schedule premium, if applicable, or the overtime premium as set forth in Section A. of Article X, if applicable, for actual work performed. Time spent in an on-call status shall not be counted in calculating time worked for deter-mining when an overtime premium shall be paid.

  • ... and that would solve the "having to pay overtime" problem - still, a schedule would have to be drawn up and "coverage" would to be assigned and rotated (for fairness). Of course, one Fortune 500 firm I worked at made all of their customer support staff exempt salaried employees to avoid paying overtime. But then OSHA (don't ask me why OSHA) stepped in and found that the positions did not qualify as "exempt" positions and forced the company to change the policy back ... The company sought to seek out the "whisteblower" who made the phone call - called individual people into the office of their superiors to quiz them on the identity of "Deep Throat"
  • by taustin (171655) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:17AM (#255810) Homepage Journal
    ... seems to govern this.

    "Whether waiting time is time worked under the Act depends upon particular circumstances. The determination involves ``scrutiny and construction of the agreements between particular parties, appraisal of their practical construction of the working agreement by conduct, consideration of the nature of the service, and its relation to the waiting time, and all of the circumstances."

    Periods during which an employee is completely relieved from duty and which are long enough to enable him to use the time effectively for his own purposes are not hours worked. He is not completely relieved from duty and cannot use the time effectively for his own purposes unless he is definitely told in advance that he may leave the job and that he will not have to commence work until a definitely specified hour has arrived. Whether the time is long enough to enable him to use the time effectively for his own purposes depends upon all of the facts and circumstances of the case.

    The general rule seems to be whether or not the employee is free to do as he pleases, or is restricted - tied to a phone, for instance - while waiting for the call.

    There's an overview at http://www.mrsc.org/legal/flsa/nutsbolt.htm#E9E2 [mrsc.org]

  • by MrBogus (173033) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:10AM (#255813)
    (somewhat OT) I live in CA (SF Bay) and it's almost absurd how much the 40-hour work week law is ignored, especially by the tech industry.

    If you file official time sheets (for tracking or customer billing purposes), it's a good idea to keep copies. Just in case you get screwed in someway, it's a slamdunk to file with the labor board and get backpay (at 1.5x) and interest.
  • by MrBogus (173033) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:53AM (#255814)
    Not to get into a flamewar, but when I worked for a hospital, it was part of the standard union agreement that carrying a pager translated into 25% normal pay. If you got called in, it was the normal hourly rate of course, plus OT.

    I took this philsophy with me when I was doing independant SA work some years ago. Simply told the customer that pager duty would translate into 25% normal pay, and it never cost me a deal. Usually, they would dump the pager on some poor salaried sod.
  • by Golias (176380) on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:51AM (#255819)
    I have a simple rule for dealing with companies that don't treat me right: Never consult for free.

    Sure, you could talk to a labor lawyer, find out how your state's laws apply to your situation, then go back to the company and say "this is what my lawyer told me, and here's what you should do to avoid legal problems"...

    You could do that, but then you would be giving them free legal advice! Finding out if they are exposing themselves to legal hassles is their problem. Let them find out that kind of crap on their own time and with their own money

    If you are unhappy being on-call and not being paid for it (and you should be), then here is what you should do: Utter not a single word of complaint, and start interviewing with other companies for your next job.

    During your "exit interview", they will surely want to know why you quit. You might be tempted to use this opportunity to vent about all they have done wrong and why they are so unfair... Don't. If they want your advise about what they should change, they should pay you for it. Just smile and say you like your new opportunities at your new position better, shake hands, and walk away. Otherwise, you are breaking the One Rule for dealing with bad companies: Never consult for free!

  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:06AM (#255823) Homepage
    I had a friend who worked in the global product support division for a certain product within Nortel. These people were in much the same position as you, in that they had to carry a pager, and had to be able to respond to the page and be at work within a certan time period (1 hour, IIRC). Anyway, the way it worked there is that the employees were responsible for claiming how many pager shifts they worked. Then, they would be given a certain amount of additional salary for the shifts worked. If there was an actual page, however, then the employee was responsible for recording the number of hours worked on the issue, etc, etc, and they were paid accordingly. This way, the employees are properly compensated for the time carrying the pager *and* the work actually done should an issue arise.
  • by RatFink100 (189508) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:05AM (#255824)
    Slashdot is not the place to get legal advice I'd agree with you there.

    But it seems to me the poster is also trying to get a sense of what and how others in a similar position are paid. Presumably in order to be better informed when negotiating with his employers.
  • by John.Thompson (199699) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:27AM (#255834)
    Hmmm. Must be nice. I work in a hospital, not in IT but doing hands-on patient care, etc. When I'm on call I need to carry a pager, be available to work within 20min of a page, etc. For this, I get the princely wage of US$2/hour while on call. Somehow priorities seem a little backwards here. The people who are call to service machines get a decent compensation, but those who get called in to deal with mere people in emergencies get $2/hour for their on call time. It's not as if I do unskilled work, either. I have two college degrees, professional license, etc. Most of the IT staff is lucky to have a 2 year technical college degree. -John
  • by sabine (206851) on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:41AM (#255837)
    This may be a dumb question, but wouldn't it be more fair of management to switch you to a salaried pay rate rather than an hourly? On-call time should be compensated somehow. sabine (first post?)
  • by KurdtX (207196) on Monday April 30, 2001 @05:34PM (#255838)
    I guess the phrase "burning bridges" doesn't mean much to you.

    I guess there are also some people out there who would rather get what they have to work than to scrap it and go with something entirely new. Be it a job, car, or OS. However, I do agree with you in that you have to realize when something is so broken it's not worth fixing (can you say "DOS"?). It's a fine line to walk, and you have to decide if the costs of moving to the new [whatever] are worth more than the costs of staying with the current [whatever].

    Kurdt
  • Personally, I've cut vacations short in order to fix a problem (especially if it might have been my problem). But who wouldn't do the same if they were valuable to the company and gave a toss about their career and reputation?

    But the real reason is to get your meat hooks into them, to make it hard for them to fire you or allow you to move on. My solution: all the software we use has manuals written only in Mandarin Chinese and a few in an ancient Incan language of pictograms.

    Another way is to use archane security systems that may not be the most effective at keeping out crackers, but work wonders at scaring the crap out of upper management.

    Custom software mods. Sure, the head office invested millions in SAP, but they can't get anything to work without your data merging widget, written in an odd flavor of Fortran.

    Bwahaha! You have them by the shorties now, my boy! [ridiculopathy.com]

  • by lrichardson (220639) on Monday April 30, 2001 @04:59PM (#255861) Homepage
    As far as I can see, conditions are worsening. It used to be a reasonable deal with most companies - bonuses for being on call, and pay/time off for actual on call hours. That's changed.

    There's been a trend over the last decade towards getting more and more work out of less and less people, particularly in the IT field. I once had the joy of joining a company, and watching every other technical teammate - read, on call - bail in the next six months. Did management hire replacements? Nyet. After six months solid on call, I quit.

    A small study that _didn't_ get published by a previous company actually gathered stats for on-call hours, over the previous five years. The conclusions were rather predicatable - more hours, less people - but I also thought it interesting that actual calls were up - the study believed it to be the result of 'overly aggressive timelines'. I know that doesn't help much with your question, but one small additional note - this was a company up until 2 years ago actually had a third class: hourly, salary and hourly-exempt. As in exempt from any laws like overtime, on-call bonuses and the like.

    I will give one piece of advice regarding lawyers. Talking to one, and then mentioning it to your employers, is a _bad_ idea. Talking to a lawyer, in and of itself, isn't bad. But mentioning it will get the little black mark on your record - "Not a team player" - and you can expect things to worsen (possibly to the point of dismissal).

    Do whatever it takes to make the situation better, without doing anything that would actually antagonize management.

  • Employers always want to take advantage of their labour. This is exactly the sort of thing that unionizing would be able to prevent, yet most geeks will scoff and roll their eyes if you even mention it.

    Personally, I think the exploitation is worse since IT workers keep the machines running... so the mentality is set up that, since the machines need to run, the IT folks need to always be on call.
  • by Kletus Cassidy (230405) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:29AM (#255871)
    How Do Companies Pay for "On-Call" Support? [slashdot.org]

    The above article asked the same question and there were lots of good responses.
  • by jesseraf (230545) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:22AM (#255873) Homepage
    While I agree that people should be paid during on-call hrs to some degree, I disagree with your statement. People do things all the time which directly affect how they work. If you get your hair-cut in a mohawk, you might get fired as well, but no one would ever claim that you should get paid to get a good hair-cut.
    People don't get paid for stuff they do outside of the office but directly affect how they work. eg. no one gets paid for driving to work, dressing in uniform, etc.
    Unfortunately the profession I'm familiar with that requires off-site on-call hrs is a medical doctor. They as far as I know (at least in Canada) do not get paid until they arrive at the hospital. What generally does happen is that they aren't on-call 24/7.
    I think it's unfortunate, but I think there's very little you could do. As someone else said employers will always take advantage of the situation.
  • by NineNine (235196) on Monday April 30, 2001 @11:23AM (#255880)
    Sure. Unionize. Great way to kill the industry. Have you noticed that the big unionized industries are NOT existing in the US any more, more the most part? Autos, steel, textiles. All gone. Why? Unions forced companies to pay exorbitantly high rates for their employees. Unions are useful when working conditions and bad, pay is low, and there aren't other companies to work for. In IT, working conditions are excellent, pay is excellent, and there are thousands of companies to work for. Unions are totally unnecessary in IT in the US.

  • by arfy (236686) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:12AM (#255882)
    My job is salaried and when the on-call rotation falls to me I get a fixed cost-per-hour for hauling the beeper plus overtime pay for the actual time spent responding to a problem.

    It's been that way for about seven years and three companies. And I do work in a "right-to-work" state.

    Two companies ago the policy changed: when they weren't paying any extra, the on-call guy didn't respond and they tried to fire him for cause. He sued and received some settlement money from the company because the contract didn't give value for value, something about only having to exercise slight care when you're doing something essentially for no extra compensation. Anyway, after the company settled and it became known to the rest of us, some started turning off their beepers and the result was the salary + fixed + overtime plan.
  • by big_groo (237634) <groovis@g m a i l.com> on Monday April 30, 2001 @08:45AM (#255883) Homepage
    Sunday through Thursday: 1hr/day for pager duty.
    Friday to Saturday: 2hrs/day for pager duty.

    Holidays: 4hr/day for pager duty.

    What if you get called in? Well, then you get 4 hours pay MINIMUM for the call. If you can fix the prob in 2 hours, hit the beer store, if not, well too bad suckah!

    g
  • by gdyas (240438) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:18AM (#255884) Homepage

    First of all, ditto all comments on talking to a lawyer & not giving anything said here credence. That noted...

    I recall a similar question recently being written in & answered in the LA Times's "Workplace" questions section. The employment professional who answered it said that the situation varies by state, but this is the legal situation in CA:

    You are considered to be "working" and therefore must be paid if your movement or behavior is constrained in any meaningful way. That is, if your employer forces you to be at home to answer a call, he must pay you to stay at home because he's constraining your movement. Likewise, if you're on your lunch break yet not allowed to leave the property you must be paid for your lunch break. An example of behavior constraint is being allowed to do whatever you want but having to wear a shirt that advertises the company. You must be paid for being constrained. Thus, it comes down to individual cases for the court to decide if you are indeed meaningfully constrained.

    Now, the courts have said that being forced to carry a beeper or cell is not a meaningful restraint on behavior, nor are reasonable localization constraints, where for example a person is told to be within an hour from work at all times should they get beeped. The intent as interpreted from the courts is that no constraint should make it difficult for you to live a normal daily life. The employer does NOT have to pay you for the time you're on-call, as long at they're not making you stay in a certain place or places to be on-call.

    However when called in, even if it's just to answer a 5-minute question, they must pay you for the mandated minimum of 2 hours (this counteracts employers over-scheduling people on purpose then sending them off if it's not busy today without compensation). If they call you in they may also be liable to pay you from the moment they NOTIFY you to come in to the time you leave, as opposed to just the time you're there working on the problem.

    Lastly, in CA no company can legally mandate overtime for hourly employees nor fire or punish you for not working overtime, though this law is largely flouted. It is always (legally at least) your choice to come in on short notice or not. If you do come in in addition to the standard 40-hr workweek, the requisite time and 1/2 must be paid.

  • Personally, I think the exploitation is worse since IT workers keep the machines running... so the mentality is set up that, since the machines need to run, the IT folks need to always be on call.

    That's right, friends, what's more important to your boss is the machine. Not you.

    This is quite evident to most people who work on production lines doing highly technical work. The reason technically skilled people are so unique is that they can fit themselves into the little box of functionality determined by the technology's requirements. To the bosses, this isn't like the requirements of an artist, which include freedom of some sort.

    The economy is crashing and many people find that they can locate more replaceable machine-servants than they could in the upswing.

    So, in accordance to your lesser value, IT on call staff, your flexibility is gone, and your job perks are gone, and you see your job as the stark situation that it is-- slavery to the machine.

    This is the kind of work that would benefit from independent collectives of people each knowing the same group of machines and being interchangably knowledgable about them. But companies like as few people as possible to have access to their system.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:54AM (#255899) Homepage
    Texas is rahter vague on this subject by only defining when an employer is *NOT* liable for paying "on-call" employees.

    62.054. Certain Employees Subject to Call

    An employer may not be required to pay an employee who lives on the premises of a business and who is assigned certain working hours plus additional hours when the employee is subject to call for more than the number of hours the employee actually works or is on duty because of assigned working hours.

    Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 269, 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1993.

    So it's safe to say that Texas requires pay for being "on-call" but I suspect that if you are salaried, that it covers that circumstance. In short, you have to negotiate for that circumstance as part of your emplyment agreement. If you are hourly, again, it's up to you to negotiate that amount, but Texas does require payment unless you actually live on premisis. So, in Texas, if you don't live there and you are paid hourly, then they are required to pay you. If they have not negotiated the amount in advance, I think it's arguable, since they have to pay you for being on-call, that you can PRESUME full-rate pay.

    So if you're in Texas, are paid hourly and you don't live at the site, then you can actually start your negotiations by filing for back/past-due wages at the full rate. Of course, it's best to consult with a lawyer before telling the boss you want back pay for 2,000 hours of work. It could be really upsetting to a company to discover that you are demanding another $50,000 for the time spent "on-call" when you were at home sleeping during those hours. At the very least, they will come to the table to discuss "on-call" status and then you can bring up the laws and practices of other states' rates from 20-25%.

    Since I'm Salaried, I don't get to play that game. Sad too because it sounds like a fun game.

  • by MSBob (307239) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:01AM (#255919)
    I mean, what kind of place would we live in if police only got paid for the arrests they made?

    A very safe one indeed. Albeit a very strict one too.

  • by cowtamer (311087) on Monday April 30, 2001 @12:42PM (#255922) Journal
    my situation was very similar:

    Our employer (large telco who probably also employs Mr. Coward) would mandate special authorization to leave town even when we were not on call. This was not a huge problem since it was in our job description as support employees.

    Everyone would take turns carrying the pager. This was a sweet deal for contractors because even a 15 minute response at 3am ended up getting billed for a full hour. Not getting paged was a rarity. Of course there was no
    sleep, but that also was the nature of the job. Once again, this was in the job description--nothing to complain about.

    When we were made to become salaried employees, and people who refused to do so left, however, it started getting questionable:

    -overtime was anything above 45 hours. We got paid for 40. Everyone worked at least 50 (mandatory). So every month I had at around 20 hrs of unpaid time.
    -we would take turns being on call (which became 'on site') on national holidays. We would get no extra pay for this, even though holidays were supposedly a benefit.
    -full 8-9 hour shifts were mandatory even after 4-5 hour nightly on calls. We had one guy simply 'break' and just abandon the job. Most of us came close.

    My advice:
    If you're contracting, stay a contractor, and bill
    all time you work (so Coward has little to complain about). Do NOT become salaried.

    Otherwise, try monster.com (which I did)!!!

    It boils down to this: support employees will be abused. It [support] is a good thing to do if you need the money, or are making a lot of it. Otherwise, fighting the system is pointless, since nobody expects you to last more than 18 months or so anyway. Any other type of employee would probably have unionized, but somehow that does not work in the geek world. Why not? Are we too independent, too disorganized, or do we simply make too much money to care?
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:32AM (#255924)
    Depends on the specific terms of the contract. For example, my last job was at my university newspaper as the webmaster. Pay there was on a per issue basis, and I had to do whatever it took to get that issue online. Generally that worked out to a very good hourly rate, though there were a couple nights where I barely made minimum wage. Also, I was technically "on call" 24x7. If there was a website problem, my pager would go off and I needed to come in ASAP, for no extra pay. All this was fine with me, however, all in all I feel that I was adiquately compensated. The per issue pay was high and generally the per issue work was low, so it made up for the times where the work was high or I got called in for something.

    As for this guy, well basically it depends on wether he thinks his compensation is adiquate. More or less if you feel that your compensation is NOT adiquate in a given job your only options are to either try to negoate somethng else with management or to leave and find a new job. Wether it is bad enough to actually quit is up to you. For example, if I worked a job where I made like $12/hr, had to work really hard during the day, and then was expected to be on call at night with no additonal pay, I'd probably be pissed, and try to renegoatie and leave if I didn't get my way. However if I worked a job where I made $40/hr and had a fairly easy work day, it wouldn't at all bother me to be on call in the off hours.

    Really the only time there is any sort of legal solution is: if ( (cash.youGet / hours.youWork) 5.15 || cash.youGet cash.promisedInContract). so unless your pay works out to be less than minimum wage on an hourly basis or you pay is not consistent with what's in your contract (ie they promised you on call pay but you don't get it), there really is no legal recourse. That being the case you should frist talk to your boss and see if they'll up your compensation and if they won't, consider wether the compensation is adiquate enough to keep the job or if you should look elsewhere.

  • by w2gy (324957) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:12AM (#255928)
    I used to work for a large ISP in the UK that was spending a lot of time on putting people on 24/7 due to unreliable kit from manufacturers. The Director of Ops felt we might be "fixing" kit to make the most out of call-out pay (ISP being the lowest paying sector possible), so decided to swap the tables around.

    For one of our customers, we had to be tested by an independent company to match to an SLA in terms of dial-up performance, speed of access, etc. so the scheme worked like this:

    A pot of cash was put up - say $6,000/month. If we did far better than the SLA stated, the whole lot was up for grabs. If we got just inside, $4,000 was up for grabs. If we missed the SLA, no money was available.

    What would then happen is that for every day a person did remote call-out they got a point. If they drove into work to fix something, they got an extra point. If they did a whole day at the weekend, they got an extra 2 points, etc.

    At the end of the month, all the points were added up, and the amount available from the performance we had acheived was divided by this number of points, giving money per point. This was then awarded accordingly. I left after making about $10,000 on this scheme over 6 months, but I know one guy who still works there doubled his salary on this.

    What's more, the network is in better shape too, as it has to meet high standards for the money to be paid out. Quite effective really.
  • by Zeio (325157) on Monday April 30, 2001 @10:59AM (#255929)

    I remember my first Job in IT/IS/MIS/(whatever else they call the work of a martyr); it was great. I was getting benefits and travel compensation, as well as $28.00/hour. This may not sound like a lot (For New York/San Francisco); after 40 hours this started to rack up dough pretty quickly.

    Then came the day I was offered the coveted Salary. Oh, paid vacation! Oh, getting paid when I'm not around. Oh, getting ripped off and having to work un-compensated overtime and having various people call you at all hours. What happened to the days of the Hawaiian shirt, waking up at 9:30, and just knowing it all (compared to lusers where the PEBKAC - I would not presume to know it all) and working late when the servers crashed or messed up.

    The suit and tie replaced khakis and polo (I didn't mind dressing up, its like a uniform - and always looks kind of nice). The boss and every co-worker felt like weekends and sick days and vacation days were open season because I was the one who implemented most of the 30 servers in the main location. Never mind the fact the servers has good uptime and were well documented, these people didn't know how to USE the software they were 'professionals' in. When I went away to Mexico one year, I left my cell phone home, and the stupid pager. When I got back there were 40+ messages which were dent to null immediately.

    People and Employers don't get it. I use to work late without overtime almost every day in NYC, it's part of the work culture there. People used to get very upset with this guy, Vlad, who basically worked nine to five. I used to say "Lets unite! If we all work nine to five, we will send a message to the management that we need more personnel". This advice fell on deaf ears - the toiling continued.

    I am by no means complaining outright, I feel that I am lucky and am well compensated. Work does encroach on my life from time to time, and I resent it. I think its ridiculous and unfair. I work at a Si Valley startup now, so I am less resentful. Everyone works overtime, and the risk and added work is supposed to be rewarded by shares.

    It is painful for me to be the pivotal person here, the bridge between the engineers and the marketing whores and others. I have to explain the subterfuge and lameness of the lusers to the engineers, and have to hold the hands of the lusers and explain that people on *nix platforms like PDFs, not work documents, and that HTML mail doesn't play nice. Or how to make a VPN connection. Or how to dial up and ISP. Or how to get a DSL "router" NAT box or wireless network for the home. Or do something else that is overtly simple. The list goes on forever.

    I think the service groups in various companies should start valuing their employees, most of the time the only way to send a message is to walk. I've walked with great success, always getting more money each time I hop. It's not about the money for me, it's about being worn to the bone. It about being expected to be superman always by lusers. You should have seen the face on this person whose hard disk failed. "I can replace the hard drive, sure, no problem." "Will I get all my data back?" "No, You never backed it up. You were told many times how to back it up and failed to do so." "I thought it was automatic."

    Christ, if you were to tell a professor in University that your floppy died and you lost your project, you would at best get a ~day~, maybe less to produce it. Most of the time you would just fail. These people have graduated from the world of school to the world of being a fetus with a big body in the workplace.

    I think IT/MIS/IS/blah should be seen as valued. Companies should train their employees, and increase support. Think of it, when you call {Insert publicly traded technology company here, e.g., HP, Dell} you hate waiting for service, and you hate how stupid the tech support is most of the time. I think of myself as someone who is a pleasure to deal with, I'm polite, like to crack a few jokes, and always try my hardest to get the job done well and in a timely fashion. No, instead, these companies have to bleat to the shareholder, not pay/eliminate good people and as consumers get the shaft.

    In a company, the people you support are the consumers, the customers. And people are getting crappier and crappier service because decent people like myself are getting disgruntled and pissed. So they fleet of DeVRY graduates takes my place, from flipping burgers to re-ghosting machines every time they see an application error they don't understand.

    Companies and managers - keep the good ones around, pay them more and try not to tell them how to do their jobs. Fire people who don't tow the line, and give the good ones gophers and underlings. You will be rewarded. Start paying out overtime instead of "comp. days," which are a total crock since you page them anyway!

    I honestly wish I was still on hourly.

    Best of luck to all my fellow MIS/IT/IS/blah support people - may the force of fairness be with us!

  • by Hostile17 (415334) on Monday April 30, 2001 @09:45AM (#255933) Journal

    I'm confused.

    Shouldn't you be happy you have a job in the first place? Corporations aren't hiring you just for fun, you know. They expect you to work for your pay! You should be posting anonymous. I would never hire someone like you to my company.

    Let me clear things up for you. Yes Corporation who hire you have the right to expect thier employees to work, however in this case, his employer is not paying him for the the service he provides, ie being on call. He has the right to recieve a fair days pay for a fair days work and if he is not, then he has two options, quit and find another job or try to change his current employers policy. I personally feel it is better to try the latter and only the former if the employer is unreasonable and refuses to negotiate a fair settlement, such as half pay while on call, or being allowed to take the time worked off at another time and still get paid.

    I know I will get flamed for this, because it sounds too much like a labor union, but remember there is strength in numbers. If you go it alone, you will probably be ignored, but if you can get a few or better yet all of your co-workers who are in the same situation to confront your employer at the same time, you are more likely to get results, after all 1 person is easy to replace, 10 are not.


  • by slashdot_commentator (444053) on Monday April 30, 2001 @01:11PM (#255936) Journal
    People have already put out good reasons not to unionize, let me add:

    1) Why pay a tax to an organization that I may have strong disagreements to goals and approach?
    2) You've probably never seen the Telecommunications union at work. One tiny example: picture not being able to get training for some new technology (DSL) because "the union" says mgmt can only give it to the most senior guy (who may end up retiring in 6 months).

    On the other hand, I think it would be extremely in our interest to form a Trade Association, that could do things like lobby on issues of importance to us. The difference being instead of dues being ripped out of our paychecks and being forced to bargain collectively, the organization would collect voluntary membership dues, put out a trade publication (perhaps setup professional accredation standards), and lobby Congress on things like H1B visas, labor laws (such as compulsory unpaid overtime) or intellectual property. The model I'm thinking here is the American Medical Association.

    (The problem is that doctors are bright enough to pony up the money for such an organization, but I'm not so sure about ego-centric programmers, admins & web jocks. Too bad the ACM couldn't take up role.)

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