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THE QUESTION

I am a clerk in a grocery store. I have worked there for more than a decade. I am not afraid of hard work and will take whatever hours I can get to support my wife and young daughter.

A couple of years ago, my company converted my store to a discount banner. We were invited to "reapply" for our jobs at a much lower wage. I used to be paid $17 an hour. Now I make just over $12 an hour for doing exactly the same work.

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Aside from the fact that this seems immoral when my company is profitable and likes to crow about being a good corporate citizen, I have had to take on a second part-time job to make ends meet. Only trouble is, my manager at the first store won't post the schedule far enough in advance to make that doable.

I have asked him to post the hours earlier, but he says he is under pressure from the regional manager to schedule staff on an "as needed" basis. Without jeopardizing my own job, how can I make the case that employees deserve some basic consideration so we can plan our own lives?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Greg Conner

Executive director of Human Resources at BC Transit, Victoria

While it is regrettable that the branding change resulted in a 30-per-cent pay cut for you and your colleagues, that is done, and what you clearly need now is some recognition of your loyalty with respect to the scheduling of your hours.

I would approach your manager and appeal to him on a number of fronts. Your family situation and your long service/loyalty are each worthy of accommodation. I would always make sure my long-serving, hard-working employees were looked after first. It is hard to believe there isn't a core set of hours for which staff are needed, into which you could be scheduled well in advance.

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Beyond that, you can also share with your manager that there is lots of solid evidence that good corporate citizens are not just about their customers; they get to the right place with employees who are treated well and accommodated such that they can meet their obligations inside and outside work.

If that fails, dust off your résumé, as there are lots of organizations who love people just like you.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Heather MacKenzie

Founder, The Integrity Group, Vancouver

While the company's rebranding of your store has triggered this state of affairs, that is something that is out of your control. The focus needs to be on finding a way to achieve meaningful change in your work life at the store.

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I urge you to speak with colleagues who find themselves in the same situation in order to develop a proposal you can bring to your manager as a collective. The proposal should make a business case that clearly identifies the challenges, the employee needs (for instance, schedules to be posted perhaps a week in advance), and how this change will be of benefit to both the employees and the organization as a whole.

Preface it by highlighting your appreciation for the work and your long service. Do not frame it in the context of employees having other jobs, as the law imposes a duty of fidelity on employees to their employers, which covers such things as availability. This should be presented to your manager as collaboratively and constructively as possible so that he feels comfortable submitting it to the regional manager.

If that does not work, you might pursue the more formal option of unionization, assuming you are not currently unionized, as, unfortunately, employment standards legislation covering non-union employees is silent on the issue of posting schedules.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Your confidentiality is ensured.

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