May 07, 2008
Put that BlackBerry down!

Via JK On the Phone, here's a story that's close to my heart.

CANADIAN bureaucrats' use of BlackBerry mobile devices and similar gadgets has become so prevalent that their union today called for extra wages for workers connected 24/7 to their office.

"We have old clauses in our collective agreement that cover standby pay, but these clauses have to be updated because these devices have changed the definition of work and being called after-hours,'' said Ed Cashman, regional vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC).

"If you have a BlackBerry, you are essentially available 24 hours, seven days per week,'' he said.

"If you want that degree of availability, you have to pay people for it.''


The federal government has told the union that "they're willing to talk to us about this issue,'' Mr Cashman said.

But pundits warned the union may get more than it bargained for, as workers could be expected to check their BlackBerry when they should be relaxing or spending time with family.

"These people are interrupting their lives,'' Carleton University professor Linda Duxbury told the Ottawa Citizen newspaper.

"I wouldn't want to legitimise it by (having employers) say, 'We are entitled to send them (staff) messages because they are being compensated for it.

"How can you compensate someone for their divorce, the fact that their kids hate them or don't know them?''

I suppose it's a matter of what the expectation is now. If such an employee puts the BlackBerry in his nightstand on Friday afternoon and ignores it till Monday morning, does he get dinged on his evaluation for not being sufficiently in sync with team goals or some similar nonsense? In other words, is it already a de facto expectation that regular email checking during off hours is a part of the job description? If it is, then you may as well make it official and be properly compensated for it. Or at least you can know what the job really entails and choose to avoid it because of that.

I'm a BlackBerry server admin in my civilian guise, so I do keep an eye on the handheld over the weekend and whatnot. I have a lot of customers in Asia, so a quick email check before bedtime can save a lot of time on certain correspondences. It's not particularly onerous for me, but I've received enough email at bizarre hours from other folks to know that it can be much worse. I don't know enough about the particulars here to offer advice to these Canadians, but I think in general it's something that depends a lot on the job, the corporate culture, and the boss. I'd review my situation very carefully before I made a decision.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 07, 2008 to Technology, science, and math
Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)