Rules of Work

When you’re in an employment situation where striking is not an option, what can you do to force negotiations with your employers? If you’re working with a contract, then you can play by the rules, and drive your employer crazy. Just follow the rules.

Many rules are defined as part of any work agreement, but many of them are typically ignored by employees and employers alike. Other rules are not defined, and are likewise ignored by everyone. But when you choose to stick to the rules, it can help push negotiations your way, but be prepared for an amendment to the rules at the end of the bargain.

As an example, if your contract does not stipulate that you may have to fill in for an absent co-worker, you can refuse to do their work. Or, you can show up exactly on time, and leave exactly on time, putting in not one minute extra,

Of course, you can get even more clever than that. If a process that you are supposed to follow includes verification, you can insist on doing a complete verification instead of the superficial one that was intended. Train engineers in France did that whenever a train crossed a bridge, since that was technically part of their job. Australian postal workers weighed each piece of mail to ensure that the proper postage was affixed, even when a visual scan could confirm that many times faster.

The idea is to slow down the system to the point where following the rules (for which you cannot be penalized) becomes so time consuming that the employer needs to put an end to it. You want the employer to have you go back to work as usual, where the inconvenient rules are conveniently ignored or modified so that the job gets done in a reasonable manner.