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Altering work hours with no notice
Evening all,

so I'm working on a site at the moment, and this afternoon the unit's operations manager came down to site. Now, we'd heard some rumours about there being a problem with site hours the previous week. Essentially, the infrastructure project we're working on aren't happy with our working hours. We normally work (on this site at least) a 40 hour week, 8-5 each day with a half hour paid break at 10am and then an hour unpaid lunch break at 1pm. Apparently our contracts to the project say we'll work 8 hour days, and by having an hour lunch and a half hour paid break we're only working 7 1/2 hours.

Today they came down to site to tell us that our paid break will only be paid for half of it, so 15 minutes paid break and 15 minutes unpaid. And our lunch time is now 45 minutes and then we have to go back on site. The upshot being that we will not be paid for the extra time we have to work.

Yup, they want us to work for free.

They claim that this is only for 15 minutes, but if we're losing half our paid break (15 minutes) and then being told to get back on site 15 minutes early, I'm fairly certain that adds up to 30 minutes in total.

Now, the union's position is that the half hour tea break has always been paid, it is custom and practice and that if our unit want's staff to work longer hours then they should pay them accordingly.

Except our senior management are ignoring this and claiming that they aren't changing our working hours....

...despite the fact we're going to be working longer and not being paid for it.

My question is, has anyone else ever encountered anything like this? As of yet I haven't received anything in writing saying that I have to work longer hours, only a verbal discussion with our operations manager. Does anyone have any recommendations as how to fight this? Is it even possible to fight it? I've been working in Commercial for 4 years and it the first time I've come across something like it.

So, answers on a post card please.

Or alternatively, post below.

How much break time do you get?

The amount of break time you get is usually agreed with your employer. It may be written down somewhere (eg in your contract of employment) or might just be part of your employer's standard practice.
Your employer must give you at least the rest breaks required by the Working Time Regulations. They must also ensure that your health and safety is not put at risk. This means that your employer might have to give you more than the amount set out in the regulations, if this reduces a health and safety risk.

As an adult worker (over 18), you will normally have the right to a 20 minute rest break if you are expected to work more than six hours at a stretch.
A lunch or coffee break can count as your rest break. Additional breaks might be given by your contract of employment. There is no statutory right to 'smoking breaks'.
The requirements are:

  • the break must be in one block
  • it cannot be taken off one end of the working day - it must be somewhere in the middle
  • you are allowed to spend it away from the place on your employer's premises where you work
  • your employer can say when the break must be taken, as long as it meets these conditions

Also note the statement:

Quote:The amount of break time you get is usually agreed with your employer. It may be written down somewhere (eg in your contract of employment) or might just be part of your employer's standard practice.

I always went for 37.5 hour week.. which equals 7.5 hours a day and lunch... so you were getting a generous break, however, the contract will show your breaks... you do have a contract ?? :face-huh:

Ps ensure the location of this site or the company is not possible to work out. You can't (to my mind) change a contract without agreement....

If your employer wants to change your contract

If your employer wants to make changes, they should
  • consult you or your representative (for example, a trade union official)
  • explain the reasons why
  • listen to alternative ideas
Please also read this
What if you and your employer don't agree?

If you don't agree, your employer is not allowed to just bring in a change. However, they can terminate your contract (by giving notice) and offer you a new one including the revised terms - effectively sacking you and taking you back on. Your employer would be expected to follow a statutory minimum dismissal procedure. They may have to follow a collective redundancy consultation process if they plan to do this to a group of employees.
Care to detail what type of infrastructure project? In particular is the client civil service?
This sounds shocking! I'm becoming more aware of a squeeze coming down from on high (the clients) their excuse being 'the recession'. But from what I've seen on sites its not us ripping people off, its all the 'dead men' on the books of the construction firms, deliberate delays, extortionate mark-ups and miss-management of projects.
Unitof1 Wrote:Care to detail what type of infrastructure project? In particular is the client civil service?

On most (almost all) infrastructure projects these days the archaeological fieldwork contractor is merely a subcontractor of the construction contractor (or even further down the 'tree') - the civil service department ultimately paying for it generally has no interest whatsoever in minor subcontrcators, its the main contractor who's got the job by putting in a stupidly unrealistic low tender who's the outfit turning all the screws. They know that archaeology subcontractors are going to say 'yes' to anything to avoid losing the contract, so we're always gonna be the easy target......
I know Dino but its all very convenient. And in my experiences somewhere along the line after the management throw their weight around on the apparent breaks issue they will be the working in the rain issue. Behind it all will be the structure of the so called contract, rate or price, that has been agreed with the so called client and as you say in a lot of infrastructure the client in question will not be the owner of the archaeological asset (which is presumably the state and in some cases assets which have come about through deals in which the state had the potential of compulsory purchase).

In the pantomime of the archaeologists being seen to be working whats more to the point is that most diggers will be totally ignorant about the terms of the contract with the client. Possibly a combination of their management keeping the diggers in the dark and the so called client claiming some form of competitive confidentiality……but also there is a big element that the diggers don’t make it their business to find out from the outset….but it being public monies it is possible that the contract can be chased down and various clauses picked on

Somewhere on the bajr site there is some mewing about diggers charters in which they depict themselves as part of the down trodden workers needing the unionisation of their work place for their salvation. Basically it makes the digger a worker for an archaeologist working on the archaeologists archaeology rather than the digger is an archaeologist who produces archaeology. What I would like to see is that the digger gave consideration to their copyrights and their relationship with the owners of the archaeology. . I particularly think that it is important that the digger should be seen to have signed their copyright (as well as retaining all rights to them as well) to the owner of the archaeology before they start work. Now where did I get that idea from.
Sorry Unit - Your understanding of copyright is way of the mark.

As an employee, regardless of whether you work in the field as a digger or back in the office as an illustrator - you have no right to the copyright of any artwork you produce as part of your normal duties.
Copyright belongs to your employers.
I think UNit is imagining some kind of 'utopia' where every archaeologist is self employed and negotiates directly with the secertary of state. How would you carry out post ex if dozens or hundreds of individuals held copyright to the data? What if some of them refused to allow its use? No sorry, forget that:face-topic:

In relation to the topic of the thread, has the union been involved in this? It is difficult to see what their angle might be when work practices are based on custom and precedent. Maybe things could be spelled out more clearly in future contacts?
I've come across this situation (where a client expects our working day / time on site to be longer than the normal contracted working day) for two different employers. Both came to the same solution of awarding us time in lieu. I think the original poster has a good case to claim 15 minutes a day time in lieu while on the project he mentions. An hour is a long lunch break anyway, and it shouldn't be a great compromise to shorten it to 45 mins for this project - all part of the give and take of the business.
Sigh. Seems to be happening a lot more these days..

The contract your unit has with the client means chuff all to you, essentially - as others have said - check your contract of employment. This can be changed as BAJR has said through consultation and constructive dismissal, but your union I would hope take a very hard line against this. Good thing you're a member, this is exactly what they're there for!

Copyright - virtually every employer in all industries will hold the copyright. Even university lecturers, for example. What should be protected is your intellectual property, ie; your right to be established as the author of the work.

Good luck with this!

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