I have worked with slackers at every job I’ve ever held. You know the type. The whiners who complain they have too much to do, yet find 10 minutes an hour for a smoke break, another 10 minutes to go to the bathroom, another 10 minutes to chat with someone in the next office or cubicle, and another 10 minutes on the phone talking to their spouse, special friend or child.
I have always worked best in an environment where the boss says, “Take me from Point A to Point B and do it within these budget parameters,” be it a budget of time or money. Then, if he gives me a long leash, I am usually able to deliver quality results on time and under budget.
That’s why I love the idea of flat-rate pay for RV service technicians. Eagles who can soar on their own with head-down, single focus efficiency through a project can often make hay when payday rolls around. If they are told the “average” amount of time it takes to complete a repair is X minutes, their competitive spirit usually ensures they have it done in X-20, so they can move on to the next repair.
At the end of the week, they have probably one to five additional repairs than the “average” technician. That leaves their pockets a little heavier on the way home from the bank. I have heard that some top quality technicians working under a flat rate system can make $80,000 per year or more.
Not everyone can do this. It takes undivided attention, training (often at the technician’s own time and expense) and determination to do a quality job right the first time.
I had to laugh yesterday when I read the story about some flat-rate service technicians in Texas and Oklahoma who were suing their RV dealership for overtime pay. You can read the story by clicking here.
According to an article appearing in the Southeast Texas Record, “The employees state that they were not paid for all hours worked at their regular rate of pay and for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a work week at one and one-half times their regular rate.
“According to the complaint, the defendant would estimate the number of hours they believed it should take the piece work employees to complete a particular job and then would only pay the employees for that amount of time or less. The plaintiffs claim the amount of time paid was arbitrary and had no relationship to the amount charged to the customer.”
Boy, would I like to be on that jury.
The RV Dealers Association publishes a book called the Service Management Guide. Written by a committee consisting of some of the nation’s best master certified RV technicians, the guide estimates the amount of time it should take for an average, trained technician to complete a repair job. The purpose of the book is to help dealers provide better estimates for repair work when dealing with customers.
Funny thing about customers. They prefer to receive a qualified estimate for repair work rather than be told the clock is running and we’ll call you when the work is done.
According to the RVDA, the guide “represents years of research and experience in the entire range of RV service departments in large, medium, and small dealerships, as well as in separate parts and service centers.” The guide provides “reasonable guidance on the hours it should take competent technicians to perform assigned service operations or tasks.”
If McClains RV was following the tenants of this manual, and the technicians running to a lawyer seeking money they didn’t earn couldn’t consistently complete the work within the estimated time frame — then, according to the guide, there is only one conclusion to make. The employees are incompetent — or slackers. Take your pick.
I am sure there are situations where dealers make up their own timeframes in an attempt to cheat the system and steal money from their customers or their employees. But, I can’t see someone of the caliber of Nate McClain attempting to pull a fast one on his staff, or customers for that matter.
Here’s what I think. If this case had any merit whatsoever, the departments of labor in Texas or Oklahoma would have come down on the dealership like a duck on a junebug. I have noticed that state governments don’t take kindly to employers who rip off their employees.
But, since the states apparently don’t think anything is illegal in the flat rate pay plan, the sniveling slackers ran to an attorney to push their case in court. I certainly hope the attorney charges them by the hour, and not a flat rate for the job.