BlackBerry joins the union

The BlackBerry is back in the news …. again. According to published reports, the Public Service Alliance has indicated they will include the use of pocket communication devices as a bargaining item.

The union is taking the position that there are situations where employees are not being fairly compensated for having to work at home.

Recently, a wave of litigation relative to unpaid overtime has focused on salaried workers who have had to work additional hours to meet goals and objectives. It was only a matter of time until this issue focused on the use of portable communication devices. The situation is likely to be exacerbated by the upcoming entry of the iPhone into the Canadian marketplace.

We are all aware of the business and personal reasons why people carry Blackberries and iPhones. However, from a legal perspective, it is probably a wise idea for businesses to include BlackBerry usage in their “acceptable use policies.” There can be a fine line between voluntary use of a device to enhance the quality of work life and the expectation that employees are available 24/7 because they have connectivity.

The ability to work remotely can have significant positive effects on the work/personal life balance. In addition, in a time of skyrocketing energy costs and a sense of reducing our carbon footprint, technology can be leveraged to assist companies in recruiting and retaining good employees. These arguments are similar to the ones that evolved from the early days of home offices.

Today, litigation and labour union concerns are raising the stakes. Each organization should review their policies to ensure that fair and effective guidelines are in place that allow the employer and employees to take advantage of technologies that enhance the work experience without intrusive behaviours infringing on the delicate balance of work/personal life.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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