[There's a TL;DR version at the bottom]
I am currently employed as a Warehouse Colleague for a large distribution centre. My general role is very menial, a low stress job that has very low skill requirements, such as opening cardboard boxes. 5 months into employment my employer became aware of my work history as a software developer (which I left as I wanted programming to remain a hobby rather than a career). They then seconded me into the IT department as an admin role (Again, basic tasks requiring no real skill-set).
I am on £2 an hour less than anyone else in the department (due to the secondment and my official position remaining the same), but I was fine with that because I enjoy the work and the team I was with (and otherwise I'd just be on the same money picking in the warehouse).
Up until the start of this year we had a department manager that handled on-site software development, who has since moved on to a better position. This left several planned projects with nobody with the skill-set to action them. Once again they took note of my development history and came to me, asking if I could take on the projects. I initially saw this as an opportunity to be noticed across the business and (at least) be put on an equal standing as the other members of my department.
6 months and a couple of very successful projects later (for which I've generated a lot of praise for), it's becoming painfully obvious that they have absolutely no intentions of changing anything about my working conditions.
- I have politely enquired about future prospects and have been flatly told that there won't "really" be any. As soon as they feel I've expired my worth, I will be back in the warehouse picking.
- I have asked if I can no longer be a part of the projects, I have been told that is not an option that I have.
- I have offered to train other higher position members of the team how to develop software, and have been told that isn't an option.
My situation is rapidly getting worse, the previous projects were all great to work on and I was included on all the meetings and was able to set my own work-load and deadlines (which I kept in favour of the businesses needs, even when it required me to work late hours).
The next project coming up is significantly more complex (requiring the creation of a networked cross-platform business application for desktops and tablets linked into an Oracle 11g database). I am being refused access to the meetings, I am being refused access to communications regarding the project and being left completely in the dark about deadlines. I have told them that I will only work on a project where I am at least included on meetings regarding major decisions, but they have retorted with "refusing to work is gross misconduct".
Due to the complexity of the proposed functionality (which continues to grow), and a very tight final deadline, I really feel this is much more than a one-man-job. Expectations seem to be running wild as there is nobody with any software development experience at any of these meetings.
I can't leave the company as I doubt I have any other employment prospects. My official position is a warehouse picker (not great for a C.V.) and if I leave, any references will likely be damning or at least not favourable.
- Do I have any kind of leg to stand on if I refuse to work on this project?
- Can I be dismissed or disciplined? (In an official capacity, I already know that I'll suffer serious backlash for this).
- Is there any official body that can help me? (The Union won't get involved).
Any other actions I can take?
I'm a near minimum wage Warehouse worker being asked to handle Software Development Projects that used to be handled by a £42,000+ a year Manager. This is being required from me despite significantly lower wages than even the lowest paid members of the team (all of whom do not have any of these expectations put on them). I need to know how I can deal with this in an official sense, or at least properly communicate my displeasure of this situation to my employer (while minimising back-lash).
A few notes of clarity:
All of my projects have been deemed successful, I have got a lot of praise for them and I've met every deadline. I've been told that my conduct and mannerisms in meetings is exceptional and that I have a strong understanding of the businesses needs. The sole reason for excluding me from meetings is due to my low position and that higher management shouldn't be expected to communicate with me directly.