Wicked Balances

Today I started working at my uncle's, where he's a bit short handed, but in a not-drastic-because-it's-December sort of way. So we're fixing a combine, but it's a combine that's being fixed in the shop, at a fairly relaxed pace, rather than a combine that we're fixing in a field in the middle of the night because we need to get harvest finished before it snows again.

The first is much better than the second, let me assure you.

It's also reassuring and heart-warming to work for someone who actually cares about being fair, honest, and good-willed toward the people he employs and/or works with.

You see, today I also got an email from a client, who shall remain nameless, for whom I've been doing some "freelance" audio operating hours.

There's a dispute over the "implied" inclusion of overtime compensation in the contract... a standing contract that was written for a totally different kind of event with totally different kinds of hours. A contract that they've already begun "paring down" with agressive negotiating tactics (under the correct assumption that I wouldn't complain "because, after all, he's such a giving and understanding sort of guy...") Overtime billing wasn't a problem for the same event last year, so I didn't think it would be a problem this year. I also don't think it should be a problem at all, since my overtime hourly rate is probably less than they would be billed for standard-time by any other "freelance" operator I've ever worked with. (If they can't afford to pay contractors a cut-rate fee... why aren't they soliciting volunteers instead???)

So when they asked me to re-submit my invoice, I was a little bit... upset.

It's not actually the fact that they're cheap enough to cut overtime pay that's upsetting, it's the fact that they're using a technicality to do so. The argument is something I'd expect from an insurance company:
(To be read in the voice of Bill Lumbergh)

Yeah, about that invoice... see, our contract doesn't say anything about overtime, so... well, we won't actually pay you for overtime. Now, we really do value the fact that you worked a fourteen-hour day for us during a busy week, but... yeah, see, we can't just go and pay you extra for that. If you'd like to re-negotiate your contract with the people in HR for next time this sort of thing comes up, I'm sure the front desk can give you their number. So anyway... if you can just go ahead and send us a new invoice without the overtime hours, that'd be great.
I realize that the organization is used to working with volunteers for much smaller events, and is probably wondering exactly how they're going to squeeze all of the expenses out of the budget for the event next year. I realize that many of the people I was working with were probably working for an honorarium, and certainly covering their own expenses. I realize that the people who organize the event have to maintain a full-time job "on the side" to afford to give the service they do to the people who attend their events. I'm empathetic--I've organized and participated in "charitable" and not-for-profit events with minimal budgets, it's very tricky. Bless their hearts for the service they provide.

If the issue had been handled in a more... tactful manner, I might have appreciated it enough to negotiate a different rate. If they had asked, I might even have offered to volunteer most of the event, or at the very least to help find/train volunteers I trust.

What offends me is that someone who talks about "charity" and "blessing" and "a servant's heart" will turn around and niggle over a reasonable bit of employee (sorry, "contractor") compensation because they have a 50/50 chance legally and reasonable confidence that the employeecontractor will just "roll over."

The worst kind of legalism isn't in the people who demand that we follow rules all of the time, it's in the people who abide by rules whenever it suits them.

1 comment:

Jack said...

I was going to change the song over on the left to something from the new Stereophonics album, but I think I'll leave that one up for a while... it's right.