Wednesday, November 22, 2017

When Numbers are Misunderstood

The shop steward, Belle, requested to speak with me about my “job complaint” as she calls it.

I already explained my wage issue with her.

“I don’t want to go to administration and look stupid,” she explained.

You are stupid, I thought. I said, “Of course. Nobody wants to look stupid. So if you want to recuse yourself, I understand.”

She jumped right in, not processing anything I said. “Okay. So what makes you look bad is that you suddenly got a lot of money and didn’t say anything. You knew you should not have gotten this money.”

“I don’t know what windfall you are talking about,” I said.

“No, not windfall,” she explained. “How can I make you understand money?” She paused. “When did you claim you got the job as scheduler?”

“A few years back,” I answered, keeping my replies simple for her simple mind.

“Okay. Exactly.” She responded.

“Exactly what?” I asked.

“This is so hard explaining this to you,” she continued. “You were getting an extra thousand dollars a paycheck for a few years, but then it suddenly stopped after you became scheduler. That tells you that you were being paid wrong, so I’m not clear on what scam exactly you are trying to pull on the hospital, but I cannot be a part of that.”

I stared at her. This was my union representation? Really?

“I was never getting an extra thousand dollars per paycheck. Where would you even come up with this?” I said, letting my annoyance show.

Belle pulled out my salary history. She had misinterpreted the thousand dollar PER YEAR raise for a thousand dollar PER PAYCHECK raise. The raises stopped when I became a scheduler because that coincided with the time that I reached the contractual maximum as specified in the union contract.

She stared at the paper for a few minutes. “Well, I don’t think it’s fair that you should make more than me. You started after me.”

“Maybe you can file a grievance with the union,” I answered. “But you are well beyond the five day limit for filing.”

She stared at me.

I saw her paycheck sticking out of her purse several weeks ago. We make the same amount. So I challenged her. “Look at your paycheck. We make the same.”

She left the room with my salary history. When she returned, she said, “Okay, but I should make more because I was hired before you.”

“Nobody can make more than we do because we are at the maximum,” I explained.

She didn’t get it. “But I’ve been here longer” she pointed out, again.

“You were hired a few months before me, but in the same fiscal year. Those thousand dollar increases are given out July 1st until you reach the cap,” I explained.

“I don’t know anything about a fiscal year, but again, you are talking about stuff that is not in the contract and the administration will never agree to,” she responded.

“Good for you!” I chirped. “So go to administration and demand a salary increase beyond the maximum.”

“No,” she interjected, “Your salary should be lower than mine. The hospital will not go beyond the maximum. You should really read the contract.”

I looked at her and slowly asked, “So are you, as my union representative, not going to advocate on my behalf, not because I am wrong, but because you are personally jealous that I make the same money as you do?”

“How can you say that after all I have done for you?” she shot back.

“What did you do for me?” I asked, calm.

“I reviewed your file!” she snapped.

“Not well,” I responded. “You made a $25,000 error.”

“No I didn’t!” she yelled. “You just make stuff up and lie.”

“An extra thousand dollars per paycheck for a year is $26,000, minus the $1000 I did get, is $25,000 per year that you claimed I was earning in error,” I explained in vain.

“You see, this is why the union can’t help you,” she sneered. “You keep changing your story. First you want a new title, now you want $25,000. You make no sense.”

I said no more as I walked out of the room.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Reverse Payroll

Thank you everyone for your messages of concern.

Things are worse.

My own union is on the side of the hospital, just as in all prior problems.

The union said that I have only five business days to file a grievance, as per the contract. I did not do this, so I am barred from contesting anything the hospital is doing, even though they are doing it now.

So in addition to lowering my salary effective the paycheck I had not received yet, the hospital can collect the $2000 it claims they overpaid me for the past two years.

The union went further. The rep informed me that the hospital has decided that I have been overpaid from the start of my employment and so I owe the hospital anywhere from $40,000 to $80,000. Plus, to be fair, my position should be re-opened so that others can apply, and I may not get my position back because I am not the most senior nurse. “I warned you to just pay them the $2000, but you wouldn’t listen,” she chastised me.

I asked if I can have the raises I did not get because I was at “maximum salary” for years. “No,” was the union’s response, because that was more than five days ago.

Why do I have a five day limit while the hospital can go back over all of my years of employment and take money from me?

“Because you were not ENTITLED to that money and you KNOW it, so you have to give it back!” the union rep yelled at me.

This is ridiculous. I assure you that I was never overpaid. I am within the lowest salary bracket in the union contract. I have my first letter of employment stating my salary, which was from the union president who was also a supervisor. Payroll goes through several checkpoints before the check is generated. There is no mistake about my being overpaid. I am actually underpaid because I do not receive the salary as advertised in the position I hold. Again, barred by the Five Day Rule.

This sounds so embarrassing to write, but I live paycheck to paycheck. I cannot afford massive deductions for the next several years. I don’t owe my employer a dime. They owe me.

The union rep called me just after I left the building for lunch, telling me to come to a certain conference room for the meeting about my pay.

“I just left for lunch,” I said. “I didn’t know a meeting was scheduled.”

“Oh, I guess we forgot to tell you,” the union rep answered.

That shows me that they have zero interest in assisting me in good faith.

“When you come back, pick up a grievance form from Nurse Belle,” the union rep instructed. “But remember, you have no chance of getting what you want.”

It took a while to track down Nurse Belle. She wanders off the ward, which doesn’t matter because she does no work when she is on the ward. But this is okay. They aren’t reducing her salary. They go after me instead.

“We don’t want to waste our time,” Nurse Belle explained. “One day you are happy with your job, the next day you aren’t. What if we go to hospital administration, but that day you are happy, so we look like fools?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” I replied. “I have never told anyone that I am happy with this job.” That is the truth.

“Don’t you remember,” Belle continued, “That I saw you looking through charts, and I asked you what you were doing, and you said that you were auditing them in preparation for our next survey. I asked you if you were okay with that and you said yes.”

“Yes,” I replied. “Where is the part about happiness?”

“You were happy with your job then, but now you aren’t. I just want to make sure that you won’t change your mind after we do all this work,” Nurse Belle said.

“Belle, I am not asking my employer to make me happy. I am asking for the money I should have been paid and asking that I not owe my employer any money. It’s about money, not emotions. I am not asking for a different position,” I said.

She gave me the Official Grievance Form and told me to fill it out quickly and give it to her.

“I need some time for this,” I replied.

“Why?” she asked, puzzled.

“Because a lot of money is at stake. I have to carefully word what I want and the justifications in the contract,” I explained.

“But the hospital never sees that form,” she said. “It’s for the union to better understand what you want so we know what to say at our monthly meeting with the administration.”

I took the form and left.

I was more upset. The Official Grievance Form is never given to the hospital? So they would have no idea if I filled it out this morning or last month. The Five Day Limit was nonsense that the union made up so I would go away.

I mentioned my struggles to the woman who is kind of like my supervisor. She explained what I think the problem is: my position is actually high paying, but the administration would not approve, so they left my title as a ward nurse but promised me a slightly higher salary (which never happened). Recently, an auditor was brought in for payroll, and she noticed the inconsistencies and flagged me.

She was not sympathetic to my explanation of why I should not owe the hospital money.

So I wished her luck with my replacement and told her I was going to recommend Nurse Fortune because she originally wanted this job very badly.

“She’s a terror!” the woman gasped. “And she can’t use a computer. That’s a requirement of your position!”

“That won’t be my problem,” I calmly said with a smile.

I think the explanation is that they should have changed my title and position to another one as outlined in the union contract. That position paid about $10,000 more than what a ward nurse earns. To save money,they didn’t change my title, thereby cutting me off from the higher salary, all along claiming it was an error and telling me that they “invented this job”special for me. Special because they were screwing me over. When someone finally audited, the discrepancy was uncovered and the hospital wants me to pay the price.

I feel like a fool.

I have to leave. I know I’ve said this before, but now it’s urgent. They are going to start taking money from my checks, possibly the entire check. I can’t afford that.

If I leave, they might take my final check. I don’t know how to prevent this. Someone told me to open a new account at a new bank so the hospital can’t claim my money after I leave.

My next job will not be in nursing. I can’t do this anymore.