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.


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