Management is installing new cameras in our trucks—pointing right at the driver’s seat. Is there anything we can do?
— They’re Watching Me
You’re probably stuck with the cameras. But you can take steps to protect drivers from unfair discipline.
That’s because the law says that when your employer makes changes to your working conditions, they have to give your union the chance to bargain over how those changes will affect you, like discipline.
The first thing your union should do is to request to bargain over the impact of the new technology, and ask the company, in writing, why they installed the cameras, and what they’re going to be used for.
You should also ask to see a demo of the technology in action, so that you can learn what it can and can’t do.
(You’d be surprised at the limitations of some of these cameras—some only record for a few seconds at a time, and can only keep a certain amount of recording. Knowing those limits can help make drivers feel more secure.)
Talk to TDU about what kind of information you should request.
If the company says they could be used for discipline, then the union should demand to bargain over it.
What kind of protection should you ask for? A good place to start is to propose that NO footage from the cameras be used as evidence to discipline a driver. Here’s a sample clause:
No employee shall be disciplined based on data received via surveillance cameras or any other monitoring technology.
If the company won’t agree to that, then you should ask for language that requires an eyewitness to verify the footage from the camera.
You know how low-quality some of these videos can be—a driver’s job shouldn’t be hanging on video that’s grainy, poorly lit, or unclear. That’s something to bring up in a grievance hearing even if you can’t win specific language protecting members from the surveillance.
All that said, there are two things I should warn you about:
Warning #1: Check out the management’s rights clause in your contract. If it’s too broad, it’s going to be hard to get the protections you need mid-contract.
But you should still ask the union to bargain—and prepare to propose better language when your contract is up for bargaining. Start documenting instances when camera footage is used to discipline drivers.
Warning #2: Your best protection is a strong grievance procedure and stewards and union reps who know how to use it.
That’s a much longer article—TDU is the best place to go for advice.