The jobs that go unfilled

I work in an office that is beginning to be hit with a wave of retirements. Over the last couple of weeks, we have lost four employees: one to transfer and three to retirement. At full strength, my office is about 40 people. We have an additional three vacancies due to people transferring to other jobs over the last six months, for a total of at least 15% of the office.

Two of the jobs to be filled involve shift work, which is hard to get people in their forties and fifties to do. Because the job is supposed to be half shift work and half office work, one makes only about 10% in shift differential and holiday pay, which results in a lot of disruption for not that much extra pay. Still, the remaining people who work shift have seen their percentage of shift work increase from 50% to about 67%. What makes this job difficult, which I hold, is having to manage projects while working on shift because I am not allowed to work overtime, and when I have to cover an extra shift for someone, that time is taken out of my office time. One thing that management is resisting is formally documenting requests for compensatory time, which is probably an FSLA violation. I do not trust what I call “trust me” comp time, where we work extra time and take time off the next pay period, because sometimes that can’t be done, and the fact taht we worked the hours is undocumented. Having to work nights and weekends makes it difficult to meet with my counterparts. At 50% shift work, I had estimated that I am only 60% as available to people working a normal schedule.

I have to be curious about the percentage of jobs that Dude and New Wave Princess failed to get that simply were not filled. I’ve written before about how in federal government, jobs now are graded at least one grade lower, which has a $10-15K impact on the salary. Another impact is the slowness of filling even existing job openings. we had one of our crew leave in September. The recruitment closed in November, and there has been no decision made concering whether to hire someone or cancel the recruitment as of today. They are paying for people to relocate, as they must, because southeastern Colorado is not a popular place to live.

One can argue that working for the federal government is different, and it is. We are staffed to have 11 engineers on shift, and have only nine of those positions filled in any way. If we don’t hire people, the money gets turned back to the Treasury. It is not as if this money is available to be distributed among the staff as bonuses. We are going to a new compensation system where the bonus pool has to be “at least 2% of salary”, and given the three-year pay freeze that recently ended, and the 1% pay increases that we have gotten in 2013 and 2014, I don’t expect it to be any higher. To put it into context, a federal employee gets an average pay increase of 1.5% annually due to longevity increases. These go away under the new compensation system, though we would still get whatever general pay increase that Congress approves.

8 thoughts on “The jobs that go unfilled”

  1. One thing about shift work is that it can cause cancer, so it’s good not to have shift work. As for jobs, I believe in the future there are going to be a lot less of them because technology really does make people more efficient. It also makes a lot more people obsolete. The Republicans, or the Rand-publicans (as I like to call them!) basically believe that everybody can be productive, but technology makes people much more unproductive when compared to machines. The top producing person, with the right technology, can be so much more productive than less productive people working together. This is been going on for many, many years. It was hidden when women stayed home to take care of the house, and children (if they had them). Now, the highest producing people, both male, and female are needed in the workforce. Men, and women who are not at the top are shut out of the workforce. We now have a society which truly judges people on how productive they are, and not on their gender or race. It is just how much money you can produce. Anyone who is above average, average, or below average need not apply. I think, in the early 1990’s I heard a science-fiction writer speak at my university, and he said in the future machines would do so much work that people would go video game arcades instead of having a job. They would go there to play online games. He was right about the online games, but you don’t have to go to an arcade now to play them. We really do have a lot of unnecessary people hey around the globe today. When this kind of thing happens it usually end up causing a war. World War II occurred because of people being unemployed. I think we are now heading to World War III. Part of the reason for a war is because wealth is in the hands of a few people. This concentration of wealth happened before World War II, and it’s where we are at now, so I don’t have much hope for the future.

  2. It is interesting that you mention cancer and shift work, because one of my colleagues was just diagnosed with cancer. He had done shift work for about ten years. Unless we are willing tolerate businesses that operate from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. or so, it is hard to get away from shift work.

    What I find interesting in my situation is that even when there is no economic incentive not to fill jobs, they go unfilled, and the remaining people suffer a speedup of their workday.

  3. Some people are ‘day’ people, and some people are ‘night’ people. I think if they just divided people that way for jobs, there would be less cancer. As for jobs not being filled even when ‘there is no economic incentive not to fill them’: I don’t know when there is ‘not’ an economic incentive not to fill them. Sometimes the economic incentive not to fill them is hidden. It sounds like a mystery well worth investigating. Maybe it can be turned into an episode of Castle. LOL. :-).

    1. It is too bad that your theory about having people work at hours that suit them better cannot be tested, at least not in a long-term study to determine whether there is a correlation between working certain shifts. I remember reading that working nights puts stress on your body equal to smoking a pack of cigarettes. It seems to me that the smokers tolerate shift work better. Self-medication?

      My theory on not filling the jobs is to pay for overruns by the contractor, but the sad thing is that the unfilled jobs pay for only TWO DAYS of the cost of running the plant. The contractor is staffing at a level that anticipates a “quit rate” of about 15%.

      A study that you might like is the Whitehall study of British civil servants. Actually, it’s a two-parter, Whitehall I and II. As you might expect, illness and perceived stress are inversely corrrelated with status. The lower-ranked you are, the sicker and stressed that you tend to be.

  4. Actually, I think it would not be that hard to test the theory. Because the government could look at its shift workers over time, and then test for a gene which makes people night people instead of day people. By looking at the data the scientist would then be able to determine if in fact there is a correlation between working a shift your body’s not programmed to work, and a higher rate of cancer.

  5. Designing such a study is beyond my abilities, even if I could overcome the difficulties in getting funding for longitudinal studies that follow a group of people over 20 or more years. or that looks at the outcomes of their lives going back 20 or more years. You might enjoy reading about the Grant Study, run by George Vaililant at Harvard for about 40 years. It was funded by the W.T. Grant Foundation, which was founded by W.T. Grant of the W.T. Grant stores, which were similar to Woolworth’s in terms of the goods that they carried. I believe that one of George Vailliant’s books on the Grant Study is called “Living Well”.

    I don’t know whether a genetic marker even exists that would tell you whether a person is at greater risk for cancer from night shift. It would be a useful thing to know. Another thing to consider are so-called “confounding variables”. Shift work is unlikely to be the sole health risk that a person has. For instance, it appears that the people who tolerate night shift best are the smokers. So, when someone gets cancer, which was it, the cigarettes or the shift work? I’d argue that if more people got cancer than expected in a large enough population, correcting for smoking, chemical exposure, and other hazards that come with the job, shift work was an increased risk for cancer.

  6. As strange as it sounds I’d love a shift job or evenings. I’m not a morning person but most professional jobs are daytime. I’m not sure which jobs I failed to get are unfilled but have seen many jobs I didn’t get still hiring.

  7. I can understand how a 3:30-midnight shift schedule (the old “swing shift”) or something similar can seem appealing. I’ve learned the hard way that whenever I shift out of the normal flow of life, it’s a big change. I might not have made it clear that I work a 12-hour shift. Add my unpaid lunch period and time to travel to work, and it’s a 14-hour day.

    Schedule stability is a big issue for anyone who does any sort of shift work. I like to post the schedule three months in advance. This was blown up when one of my colleagues was diagnosed with cancer, and we went from about 57% shift work to 67% shift work.

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