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Union leave and travel
Ask Jean…
By  CMG  •  Posted on  June 1, 2008

Question: I just had a conversation with my manager, and my job duties are changing in two weeks. I applied to this job to do very specific things that I am good at and like doing, and now I’m being asked to do something else. What are my rights?

Answer: Management does have the right to assign employees, and to change their assignment from time to time if necessary. But you have rights, too. The first thing to find out is whether your new duties are done by other people who have the same classification as you. If, for example, you’re a reporter moving from the business area to lifestyle reporting, while you may be less (or more) excited about your new duties, they are obviously journalistic duties in both areas. If you work in Master Control, and you’re asked to start ingest four days a week instead of two, that’s usually okay, too. But if you’re being asked to use a new system or doing things you’ve never done before and you aren’t comfortable, you are completely within your rights to express your discomfort and ask for training. If you don’t know how and/or haven’t been trained how to do something, management can’t discipline you for making the odd mistake.

Another important thing to keep an eye out for in this situation is overwork. If you’re a reporter who used to file for one service, and now you’re asked to file for TV, radio and the web in both official languages and carry a camera and a spare tire, it may be time to have a candid conversation with your manager about reasonable expectations and the kind of journalism possible under those circumstances. You may also want to talk to your local union steward or executive about it. They can help you talk to management about overwork situations. If you are the first person or one of the first group of people to have a new combination of duties that changes your core function, you should definitely talk to your union. The same applies if you are being asked to do work that is normally done by members of a different union.

You can be assigned to perform some or all of the duties of a lower classification, so long as it isn’t punitive, designed to humiliate you, or designed to make you quit. If you are asked to make a few phone calls for your story when a researcher would normally do it, or make your own photocopies, or something else that reasonably aligns with your normal duties, that’s probably okay. If you used be someone’s day-to-day supervisor, and suddenly your new duties involve handing them toilet paper, it may well be a thinly-disguised demotion or “constructive dismissal”, and you should definitely talk to your union representative. Your salary, however, should not be lowered and under most collective agreements your title should not change unless you specifically seek out and accept the lower position and renounce any claim to the higher one.

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