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We hire a number of temporary employees on a contract for 130 hours per 4 month term. Due to the organizational structure, employees are paid for 130 hours whether they work them or not. A vast majority of the required hours are to be spent in a lab, in person. As a result, we can't ask one person to attend the same lab twice. We have a large number of employees, and once we've allocated all of the hours we see that almost all of them are working only 100 hours while one or two per term are required to work around 116 hours. This frequently leads to conflict and a feeling that someone is not being treated fairly.

The long term solution is to re-organize so that we hire more employees on 100 hour contracts. However, I can't fix that this term, and employees are complaining.

My answer to the employees is that they were contracted to work for 130 hours, and it is not required that I allocate the hours equally. This bothers the employees, since they feel that they are being required to work more for the same pay, and it bothers me since the only reason these particular employees were required to work the extra hours is because they happened to be available.

What are some strategies to handle this, and smooth relations with the employees?

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  • Lottery each week? – Ed Heal Jan 9 '18 at 13:52
  • The issue is that we can't allocate like that at the moment, since everyone's time is already spoken for. I can't move people around since that wouldn't increase the number of people in a lab, and I'm essentially asking one or two to work an extra lab, so I can't really just move that burden to someone else as that wouldn't solve the problem – Michael Stachowsky Jan 9 '18 at 13:54
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    Change the organizational structure that is causing the complaints, or at least inform people that you're attempting to do so such that they'll be paid only for the work they do next period. Also, stop hiring the people who complain and tell the ones who are complaining that the complaints are jeopardizing their chances at renewed contracts next period. – Glen Pierce Jan 9 '18 at 14:42
  • @GlenPierce: that's the plan for next term for sure – Michael Stachowsky Jan 9 '18 at 14:55
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    @cdkMoose: the thing is, everyone is being paid for 130 hours. I'm essentially asking employees to do work they agreed to do, so I won't pay them more just to do that. It may come down to making two types of employees, the full 130 hours that get more work and the smaller 100 hours – Michael Stachowsky Jan 9 '18 at 17:13
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In essence the problem is that you are providing better than required conditions to everyone but some are benefitting more than others. In my experience an effective management solution is to threaten to bring everyone to minimum conditions to ensure even treatment (ie sitting in a desk doing nothing to fulfill the 130 hours) should complaints continue and then follow through on it if they do.

Be upfront that dealing with these complaints is distracting and reducing the effectiveness of this program and that you do your best to ensure even loading however the simplest solution is for everyone to work their full allotted time. Seeing as you are working with batches of 4 month terms, your focus really doesn't need to be on long term relationships and you can address this up front with the next batch of hires.

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  • My only issue with that is that it seems to be antagonistic to what I perceive to be a valid concern. I like how you put it, that everyone is benefitting but some are benefitting more than others, though – Michael Stachowsky Jan 9 '18 at 14:13
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    @Michael Stachowsky - It seems all around "antagonistic", if that's how you view it. They get more money than they work for, thus they need not complain about the 'good luck' of others or the 'bad luck' of the company and yourself. If they are unhappy they won't be rehired or receive a great recommendation. You are almost paying 30% too much. Are the ones whom "don't happen to be available" skipping work? Hiring for only 100 hours when you need ~102-104 hours means someone will get a renewal or full-time will work OT. Do they work slow to pad their hours? Not your fault; but overpay is. – Rob Jan 9 '18 at 14:41
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    @MichaelStachowsky The validity of the concern is really slim. They are getting way more than their agreement entitles them to. The fact that lucky ones get an even better deal doesn't change that. It's not in the best interest of the organization to let the few less lucky ones who are only getting a 12% better hourly rate than their agreement drain organizational resources. – Myles Jan 9 '18 at 16:42
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What are some strategies to handle this, and smooth relations with the employees?

You answered this question yourself, tell your employees you understand their concerns and are going to address it with 100 hour contracts going forward.

Explain how this will be more fair to them, and result in a better working environment. The fact that you are demonstrating that you see the issue, and are honestly trying to address it will go along way in smoothing relationships.

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