Thousands of IBEW-represented employees at Pacific Gas & Electric Company will soon receive an offer of compensation for missed meals, under the terms of Letter Agreement 09-10 dated Feb. 20, 2009.
This is the third group of employees and former employees to receive offers of compensation in PG&E’s on-going effort to ensure compliance with California state labor laws in the wake of recent court decisions. Two previous groups–which have come to be known as Group 1 and Group 2–have already been offered awards relating to missed meal payments. Group 1 and 2 employees were defined as employees scheduled to a continuous work schedule with an on-duty meal period.
Group 3 consists of current or former bargaining unit employees who worked through their lunch and missed a meal between June 1, 2004 and Aug. 31, 2007, but did not receive a missed meal payment. Group 3 employees represent those classifications that are scheduled to take an unpaid meal period. They will be paid the estimated average number of missed meals for their work group at their 2007 rate of pay, regardless of whether the missed meal occurred prior to 2007. The payment covers the average actual missed meals by classification and the number of work weeks actually worked by the employee over the designated time period.
To assist with the process of determining Group 3 awards, PG&E and IBEW contracted the services of Resolution Economics, a nationally known consulting firm that provides economic, statistical and financial analysis.
Resolution Economics developed a model for missed meal payments based on a statistical sampling of over one million daily time records throughout PG&E’s service territory to determine the average number of missed meals per work week by classification. The classifications selected for analysis included some of the largest groups of PG&E employees, such as Lineman, Electric Crew Foreman, Troubleman, Gas Service Representative, and Working Foreman A, B & C.
Now that the model has been successfully developed, the process can begin for reviewing other classifications that would fall into Group 3. If Group 3 had been handled all at once, the development of the statistical model would have taken significantly longer and delayed the start of making offers to Group 3 members, according to union business representatives helping to identify classifications eligible for awards.
Acceptance of the offer is entirely voluntary on the part of affected employees. Employees may sign a release to receive the specified amount of money within 30 days, or they can act within 30 days to appeal the amount. Employees who wish to appeal must do so directly through the company, not through union representatives. If subsequent investigation indicates the proper amount is higher than the amount stated in the award letter, the employee will receive the higher amount. If the investigation indicates the proper amount is lower than the initial award, the employee will receive the lower amount. It should be noted that the investigation will take some time.
Although IBEW Local 1245 has assisted PG&E in crafting a resolution to the missed-meal issue, the payments are not themselves a negotiated benefit. The payments are driven by the above-mentioned court decisions and the interpretations of state labor law as spelled out in those decisions.
In the wake of those decisions, PG&E moved pro-actively to acknowledge its responsibility for making appropriate payments and to work cooperatively with the union on a process for achieving this goal. A joint company-union committee was established to straighten the matter out. It was understood that the task would be huge. But in reality it has turned out to be gargantuan, and at times the process has tested the patience of employees who are understandably looking forward to the extra compensation.
Even so, the process has probably produced results more quickly than any other alternative approach.
IBEW Local 1245 members may wish to read Letter Agreements 07-37, 07-47 and 09-10 in their entirety for more detailed information about California law as it relates to meal periods, and the application of the law at PG&E.