Around New England

Boston City Councilor Wants City Contractors To Have To Regularize Work Schedules for Employees

May 21, 2019

A Boston city councilor wants companies doing business with the city to have to give advance notice of work schedules to their employees or pay them more for not doing so.

Michelle Wu, a councilor-at-large who lives in Roslindale, is proposing a city ordinance governing contractors with the city government that would require them to “provide their employees with advance notice of work schedules, fairly compensate employees for last minute changes in schedules, and acknowledge the right of employees to rest between shifts,” according to a written statement.

“When employers change schedules at the last second, or are not offering stability or certainty around schedules until the last minute, that has tremendous costs, not just for the families, who are then subject to rearranging everything and absorbing the cost of that, but for the economy as a whole. Not only is this a big problem, but the impacts are quantifiably hurting our society as a whole. We know that what is sometimes billed as workplace flexibility, particularly in the service sector, really means instability, and that instability has costs that we all absorb,” Wu said in the statement Tuesday, May 21.

Wu, a former president of the city council, met Monday, May 20 with officials of several left-of-center groups that support the proposal, including Service Employees International Union, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, and the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts.

She cited a recent study finding that 73 percent of service-sector workers report having irregular work schedules and that 60 percent find out their schedules less than two weeks in advance. The report is called “Working in the Service Sector in Boston”; it was published by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley.

Wu’s statement does not address costs to private companies providing services to city government, costs to the city from the proposed requirement, or possible impact on job creation.