By Jordan Tate
In this market, the labor pool is very shallow for the work required to complete projects, which encourages employers to coerce electricians into working overtime. While the overtime pay is enticing for workers, it comes with harmful consequences to our lives and safety. Additionally, contractors are making off with the majority of the increased fees that they charge to customers, rather than tradesmen receiving a fair wage for the extra work we put in.
When the employer decides that overtime is necessary, the usual rate they charge the customer is anywhere from double to triple the normal rate, whereas workers generally get 150% of their normal wage (time and a half). Usually, this overtime comes in either 10-hour shifts throughout the week or working 8- to 10-hour days on the weekends. This takes away from the tradesman’s personal time and causes them undue burden on their bodies. The employers will say you could leave the company if you want, but tradesmen will run into this situation at any company they go to due to the sheer volume of work out there.
The overtime system is another way the bosses pit workers against each other. A lot of pressuring comes from coworkers who have chosen to do the overtime. They either need the help or are upset that someone doesn’t want to work overtime. This creates an undesirable work environment for the tradesman who will most likely work the overtime at the next opportunity to be able to appease their coworkers.
The need for overtime could be avoided with better schedule-planning for projects. Frequently, general contractors will sign a contract agreeing to a date when the project will be finished. They are generally offered bonuses if they can meet that date or finish before then.
Another way overtime is created is through “change orders,” when a part of the job is changed or altered, such as when the architects or the owners want a wall built differently or to add power throughout the space. This takes time since the tradesmen must take apart all of their work in order to redo it to fulfill the change order. During these scenarios, the employer will charge the customer double or triple the normal rate on top of the original contract.
Contractors and customers alike would rather the tradesman work overtime to complete the project on time rather than extend the scheduled date to allow for the workers to complete the changes during their normal working hours.
When working overtime, the tradesmen are usually tired from an already strenuous day of work and losing mental focus, which can have harmful consequences. In each hour after ten hours of working, production begins to slip and work becomes messier. It then carries into the next shift in the form of fatigue and exhaustion. It becomes hard to shut off the work mind and take care of things in your personal life.
All of the physical and mental strain would be easier to accept for the tradesmen if we saw fair increases in pay in comparison to the money being earned on the project. When the tradesman works overtime, he makes 50% more an hour yet the employer makes upwards of 200% more per hour—the contractors have control over the situation and also stand to benefit the most. As long as the work is being managed by people who incentivize profit over quality of work and workers, we will continue to work our bodies into the grave.
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