As a business grows, there comes a point where all the constraints need to be clearly stated in an employee agreement. Sometimes, the employees themselves take the lead and form a union to force a clear agreement between the business and the employees. These agreements all have their use and importance as they are meant to clear out all the details on many aspects including scheduling.
That’s the theory. In practice, when these agreements are negotiated and discussed, the planners are not invited. These things usually happen between employee representatives and Human Resources which represent higher management. The constraints that end up in an agreement may (and will) be interpreted to the letter by both parties to their advantage. What is seen sometimes as an advantage at the time of negotiation all of the sudden becomes a burden because of an unforeseen side effect
For example, during negotiations, employees ask to move the minimum rest between shifts from 8 hours to 11 hours. This was due to the fact that the employer can force employees back to work by reverse seniority if staffing is too low to run the plant. Employer says no problem because it won‘t cost him a thing. All agreed and employees are happy not be forced back to work too quickly when staffing is too low.
The side effect that no one saw coming is that because the minimum rest was now higher, employees had difficulty arranging shift trades with their buddies. Shift trading was always blocked because the minimum of 11 hours was not respected. Shift trades got to an all time low, and so was employee satisfaction. This turned into higher absenteeism which in turn caused more overtime and more costs.
This is just one example of a constraint that was determined without necessarily testing it through from A to Z. A planner could have simulated the changes of the previous month and just wave a red flag on it explaining that all the shift trades would have been refused last month if this rule was in place. Folks would have probably looked for a different solution to the problem.
Although some constraints seem insignificant at a first glance, the domino effect can be devastating if it is not looked at the tactical and practical level. Strategic issues will always run the negotiations, but any strategy will eventually turn into a tactical practice. That practice has to be clear before writing the agreement.