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Unions for Software Jobs

Sri Anand
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Joined: Mar 06, 2005
Posts: 392
For all kinds of Jobs there are Unions but i didnt see them for Software Jobs ? or am i mistaken are they there? I didnt see any of them in India.
Usually Software engineers dont protest against doing more than 8 hours of Job
They get physcically out of shape, but dont complain about non availabity of excercise facility at work place
They are subjected to pressure to meet unrealistic dead lines and always think out of box they devolep all kinds of stress diseases but they dont complain
they always keep saying they are passionate about work, is that because they are given no other choice because of remuneration they get
they can be laid off with a day notice. not all companies offer pension plans , some tend to decrement their salary durign tough times, but all this goes unnoticed with out much protest

I know some comanies do provide above all facilities but unlike Auto industry or some other industry there are no unions and strikes


[ November 18, 2008: Message edited by: Sri Anand ]
Henry Wong
author
Sheriff

Joined: Sep 28, 2004
Posts: 18990
    
  40

I guess I will try to answer this one seriously, even though it is in meaningless drivel.

The issue with unions is that they do a very good job of protecting someone in a job. They are not good at protecting the best people for the job. So... if you have 10 years with a company, and you intend to retire with the company, a union job will likely be the best way to get to retirement.

However, if you are better than your average programmer, or is looking for a better raise than the one given to everyone in the company, it is not for you. Unions generally protect by senority, not by skill. The best people will leave the company, and hence, leave the union, because people have options at competing firms (just down the street, in most cases), giving them larger raises.

Henry


Books: Java Threads, 3rd Edition, Jini in a Nutshell, and Java Gems (contributor)
Sri Anand
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 06, 2005
Posts: 392
if you are better than your average programmer, or is looking for a better raise than the one given to everyone in the company, it is not for you.



Well then there could have been a different kind of Union(Protect By skill rather then seniority), if all software engineers were like that
Henry Wong
author
Sheriff

Joined: Sep 28, 2004
Posts: 18990
    
  40

BTW, I believe Bell Labs (when it was still around) had collective bargaining for their programmers. The union would get raises for all the cable pullers, and pole climbers -- and Bell Labs would give those same raises to their software engineers.

I don't know if the engineers are actually part of the union, or if it is just one perk, though.

Henry
Henry Wong
author
Sheriff

Joined: Sep 28, 2004
Posts: 18990
    
  40

Well then there could have been a different kind of Union(Protect By skill rather then seniority), if all software engineers were like that


Really?!? How would you propose a union be able to implement that? For example, if the union agrees to a layoff of 1000 people, do they implement a corporate wide test among members, and get rid of those people?

Henry
Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4659
    
    5

Unions make sense when each worker is identical and replaceable.

Any union electrician can wire up a house. or an office building. A Union auto worker can build a Chevy or a Ford or a Jaguar or a Tata.

I've never seen two developers, coders, analysts, testers or any other part of our business that are identical. The whole concept doesn't make sense in this industry.

The smarter programmer, analyst, developer, etc. deserves to get more money than the guy/gal next to him that isn't as good but has been doing it longer.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
I'm assuming you're talking about the US since you didn't list a location and this is a US website. The culture may be different in other parts of the world.


Usually Software engineers dont protest against doing more than 8 hours of Job

Nor do consultants, bankers, accountants, doctors, and pretty much all white collar employees.



They get physcically out of shape, but dont complain about non availabity of excercise facility at work place

Most workers realize that their company isn't responsible for their health, they are. The company doesn't tell them what to eat or when and how to exercise. Likewise companies don't offer marriage counseling or many other services that really have nothing to do with the company.



They are subjected to pressure to meet unrealistic dead lines and always think out of box they devolep all kinds of stress diseases but they dont complain

A) You and I must live in different worlds, I hear lots of people complain. Heck, read this forum. B) I don't see the deadlines being more "unrealistic" than in other white collar industries these days.



they always keep saying they are passionate about work, is that because they are given no other choice because of remuneration they get

I don't get it, how do they have no other choice? If they don't like their work they can quit and go elsewhere.



they can be laid off with a day notice.

Most companies hire people "at will" and can lay them off without a days notice. That's just standard everywhere in the US (except for union jobs and specialized industries like acting.


not all companies offer pension plans , some tend to decrement their salary durign tough times, but all this goes unnoticed with out much protest

Most companies don't offer pension plans to any workers, software or otherwise. The same is true of salary reductions. Software isn't unique in this sense.



As others pointed out, there's a reason you don't have unions in white collar fields. The better people wouldn't join because they don't want to get average pay when they can get above average pay. In the end, only below average people join and no one would want to hire them.


--Mark
Frank Silbermann
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1390
Unionism works well when productivity is easily measured. Then you can negotiate with the union over expectations. With programmers, every job is different and there is no objective way to measure productivity. A programmer could refuse to work in good faith, and it would be very difficult to _objectively_ prove it.

Therefore, we have a situation in which managers can go with their gut feelings without having to justify his personnel decisions -- but they have to live with the consequences of their choices.

An analogous situation would be unions for teachers. It is very difficult to prove _objectively_ that a teacher is incompetent. That's one reason why shortly after the American public school teaching profession became unionized in the 1960s, a huge portion of the public schools became disfunctional. The only remaining good public schools are those where students are highly motivated and thus more pleasant to teach -- teachers in those schools are motivated to do well lest the principal transfer them to a school with less pleasant pupils.
Sri Anand
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 06, 2005
Posts: 392
I have worked 5 years in India, and since 3 years working in US here i have worked both in private and Govt.,Sector

Nor do consultants, bankers, accountants, doctors, and pretty much all white collar employees.

Doctors,bankers do go on Strike, I have seen this many a times in my country

You and I must live in different worlds, I hear lots of people complain. Heck, read this forum. B) I don't see the deadlines being more "unrealistic" than in other white collar industries these days.

Dead lines not always but in quite number of cases are unrealistic, the Software engineers are exploited for the salary they are paid on the Quote "What business demamds" this happens every where although less times here (I mean US , but still they happen)laws being more stricter.


Most companies hire people "at will" and can lay them off without a days notice. That's just standard everywhere in the US (except for union jobs and specialized industries like acting.

Most companies don't offer pension plans to any workers, software or otherwise. The same is true of salary reductions. Software isn't unique in this sense.

If there were unions at company level or as whole then they would'nt encourage this policy


I've never seen two developers, coders, analysts, testers or any other part of our business that are identical. The whole concept doesn't make sense in this industry.


If they were'nt unique how come we have same kind of roles and different people filling them produce same working end product, agreed way they do work is different buts thats same in every job.Software is a different skill so is medicine and mechanical engineering if you go to 2 different doctors they dont cure using exact same medicines although they use similar procedures.
car from toyota might have a different engineering then from Ford, so is the case between IBM and Accenture.


Unions make sense when each worker is identical and replaceable.

Does this mean if devoleper of Business Analyst leaves the company he cannot be replaced by some one to continue devolepment then how are companies operating when so many people are leaving

Unionism works well when productivity is easily measured.

If productivity cannot be easily measured how is that there are differences in salaries, because different people have different abilities they are paid differently and treated with a different title


level of knowledge determines salary in all professions some doctors are paid higher than others sitting in next room because they adopt better practices, some investers are valued higher because they give greater returns. I do believe Software is one more science like Medicine or engineering its just because it evolved only few decades back its looking different.
[ November 19, 2008: Message edited by: Sri Anand ]
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 16250
    
  21

Originally posted by Pat Farrell:
Unions make sense when each worker is identical and replaceable.

The smarter programmer, analyst, developer, etc. deserves to get more money than the guy/gal next to him that isn't as good but has been doing it longer.


I'm afraid I'll have to call you on this one. Harrison Ford is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, but you can't replace him with Stanley Schmuckendorfer and expect the same box-office revenues.

"Deserving" doesn't count for much in this life, either. I think the guys who come by in their truck and ensure I don't end up ears-deep in garbage are more deserving than the CEO who managed to cut my stock share value in half and then bail, but that doesn't mean they're compensated accordingly.

It's been my experience that in IT, the people who rake in the most income aren't the people with the best technical skills - they're the people with the best people skills.


Customer surveys are for companies who didn't pay proper attention to begin with.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Since labor laws vary greatly by country, I'll continue the discussion about US, otherwise we'll be talking apples and oranges.


Doctors,bankers do go on Strike, I have seen this many a times in my country

They don't go on strike in the US, there is a reason for that.



Dead lines not always but in quite number of cases are unrealistic, the Software engineers are exploited for the salary they are paid on the Quote "What business demamds" this happens every where although less times here (I mean US , but still they happen)laws being more stricter.

This is just unsubstantiated complaining. There is no proof most are "unrealistic" (and while I do hear many people complain, again no evidence software deadlines are worse than marketing, accounting, or other deadlines). There is *zero* evidence that software engineers are exploited. Please stop offering opinions and focus on facts if you want this to be a meaningful discussion.



If there were unions at company level or as whole then they would'nt encourage this policy

This is as meaningful a statement as "if there was a doctor present someone would have tried to help him medically". Of course unions would fight for their members, so the statement is so obvious as to be meaningless. Now if you meant "if there were unions pensions would be guaranteed" then you'd be wrong, as there are unions whose members don't get pensions.


If they were'nt unique how come we have same kind of roles and different people filling them produce same working end product, agreed way they do work is different buts thats same in every job.Software is a different skill so is medicine and mechanical engineering if you go to 2 different doctors they dont cure using exact same medicines although they use similar procedures.

The role isn't unique, the people are. If you asked a man to hammer nails into a board for an hour, the average person might do 60 nails an hour (I'm guessing at this number). There would be a bell curve and the sigma would be maybe 5 nails. As people get practiced the average would move up and the sigma would decrease. In software engineering the Code Wars in the book Peopleware empirically demonstrated a 10:1 difference between the best and worst developers, and a 2:1 difference between the upper and lower halves. The point is you get bigger differences in intellectual work than in manual work. And with training, most people are pretty similar to each other ]]in physical capabilities (we're talking about typical manual labor as opposed to thing spushing the limits of strength, speed, agility, etc.).



Does this mean if devoleper of Business Analyst leaves the company he cannot be replaced by some one to continue devolepment then how are companies operating when so many people are leaving

No one said this would be the case.



If productivity cannot be easily measured how is that there are differences in salaries, because different people have different abilities they are paid differently and treated with a different title

Productivity can be measured, just not as easily or as accurately as with manual labor.



level of knowledge determines salary in all professions some doctors are paid higher than others sitting in next room because they adopt better practices, some investers are valued higher because they give greater returns. I do believe Software is one more science like Medicine or engineering its just because it evolved only few decades back its looking different.

Level of knowledge does not determine salary in the US (I can't speak for elsewhere). The value of results does.



--Mark
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Tim Holloway:

I'm afraid I'll have to call you on this one. Harrison Ford is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, but you can't replace him with Stanley Schmuckendorfer and expect the same box-office revenues.


Harrison Ford doesn't get paid to scale in Indiana Jones, so his union membership isn't so relevant. The guy sitting in the background is interchangeable and so is paid by scale.



Originally posted by Tim Holloway:

"Deserving" doesn't count for much in this life, either. I think the guys who come by in their truck and ensure I don't end up ears-deep in garbage are more deserving than the CEO who managed to cut my stock share value in half and then bail, but that doesn't mean they're compensated accordingly.


Just one note, since executive pay is often misunderstood. I think Warren Buffet and Jack Welsh deserve the large paychecks. I think CEO's in general do for bringing in good returns. The problem is with corporate governance which decided to pay these large salaries in all cases, even when the CEO screwed up, or even when there is another guy who could have added the same value for less money.

--Mark
Frank Silbermann
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jun 06, 2002
Posts: 1390
Originally posted by Sri Anand:
If productivity cannot be easily measured how is that there are differences in salaries, because different people have different abilities they are paid differently and treated with a different title?
Because they guy with the discretion to spend the money thinks that paying this way is his most effective way of doing business. He cannot prove his choices are good, but if his choices are too often bad then he won't get the results that will please his bosses.

It's all based on hunches, and the higher up the corporate hierarchy a manager is, the more sensitive business success is to the accuracy of his hunches. Well-run businesses tend to grow; poorly-run businesses tend to shrink or even disappear (though luck also plays a role) -- so this creates a tendency over time of increasing the power of those people who more often make good educated guesses. But even the best decision-maker must swallow his share of choices that turned out really badly. But it's his own money that he's putting at risk (or money that someone higher up the food chain delegated to him to spend).

The point is that his hunches, right or wrong, are not the kind of thing he can defend before a union. All a business can do is hold him responsible for the results -- which can only be done via an educated guess on the part of his own bosses.

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
Productivity can be measured, just not as easily or as accurately as with manual labor.


We do not actually measure software productivity so much as guess as to which developers seem to be "somewhat" better or worse than others we've seen. You cannot measure something if you cannot even agree on the precise units of measurements.

If a union started requiring pay for overtime, then a business might forbid overtime and put pressure on programmers to deliver unreasonable requirements within 40 hours. And you have some programmers complaining that they prefer to work in a more relaxed manner over a longer time span, and complaining about the intensity required.

Of course, a strong union that made it difficult to fire a programmer would leave us with the attractive prospect of being able to rely on an steady income without trying too hard (until the business goes bankrupt). But I prefer the Tony Soprano approach for raising his crew members out of poverty and exploitation by businessmen. Basically, he demanded that businesses give his crew members no-show jobs lest he do something to prevent the business from operating.

I mean, it's nice when unions give workers higher pay for less work by preventing the business from operating otherwise. But it's better still when your "union" can get you a fat job contract that doesn't even require you to show up or work.
frank davis
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 12, 2001
Posts: 1479
Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:
Unionism works well when productivity is easily measured.


Whether it works well or not, many professions have unions where productively is not easily measured and the bottom line for all workers, including programmers, is that its generally more favorable to be in union when negotiating. For whatever historical or personality reasons (higher incidence of introversion?), programmers would be best served on the whole if they formed a union.
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:

We do not actually measure software productivity so much as guess as to which developers seem to be "somewhat" better or worse than others we've seen. You cannot measure something if you cannot even agree on the precise units of measurements.


I can't comment on how you run your teams, but I can say that I and others do measure productivity of software developers.

First, your comment "You cannot measure something if you cannot even agree on the precise units of measurements" is simply wrong. Ever go for PT or to see a doctor and they ask "how painful is it when I do this?" In what units is the pain being measured? What about a happiness survey (they do exist)?

Before you argue, they say "measure the pain from 1 to 10," let me remind you I could say "rate his productivity from 1 to 10." I suppose you could argue that in this case it's a manager using his own self-consistent scale across all those he manages.

But let's suppose you really do want to be quantitative, one way is to measure IQ, another SLOC, another a standardized test. These might not be the ideal way, but the point is, it can be used. So then we simple get into a debate over which combination of tests most accurately measures productivity, and accuracy is a different debate.

Of course, quite simply you can take two developers off guru.com and see who earns more, then decide the market has determined one to be overall more productive.

--Mark
Tim Holloway
Saloon Keeper

Joined: Jun 25, 2001
Posts: 16250
    
  21

I see the "quoter" software is a little unhelpful here, so in response to the first item, I'll just say that the point of the SAG isn't merely to determine salaries. If it were, Ford's agent would be sufficient. The fact that salary alone isn't the issue is pretty well demonstrated by the fact that no star, no matter how big has gone "rogue" and attempted to work outside the confines of the union. I'll pass over the fact that a non-union star would cause the entire union production crew to go on strike, since there are ways around that.

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:


Just one note, since executive pay is often misunderstood. I think Warren Buffet and Jack Welsh deserve the large paychecks. I think CEO's in general do for bringing in good returns. The problem is with corporate governance which decided to pay these large salaries in all cases, even when the CEO screwed up, or even when there is another guy who could have added the same value for less money.

--Mark



Warren Buffet, yes. Although I'm not sure his paycheck is anywhere near the bulk of his income. GE isn't in such good shape in the post-Welch era and I count the total worth of a CEO not only in what he/she did in a quarter or 3 but what also what they did that affected the longer-term prospects of the company.

The issue here isn't what the really good CEOs get paid, but that so many people whose executive skills are apparently worse than the janitor's getting obscene remuneration for failure. What people resent more than anything else about bloated executive salaries isn't that there's such an incredibly high reward as that there's no risk/reward here - it's turned into reward/reward. Not payment for results, but payment regardless.

From my own point of view - as an investor - if I'm going to see someone paid 400x average employee salary (and I realize this is an extreme), I expect that they return something worth at least what those 400 unhired employees could produce (allowing for benefits, etc. saved). And I don't mean a quick-hit M&A deal. Over the years I've seen so many of those turn into something where the deal brokers pocket the cash and leave and the acquisitions unloaded again at a cost of interim profitability and loss of talent. It smells suspiciously like a zero-sum game to me.
Pat Farrell
Rancher

Joined: Aug 11, 2007
Posts: 4659
    
    5

Originally posted by Tim Holloway:
I'm afraid I'll have to call you on this one. Harrison Ford is a member of the Screen Actors Guild, but you can't replace him with Stanley Schmuckendorfer and expect the same box-office revenues.


The SAG is interesting, 99% of the money is made by 1% of the members. I forget the real numbers, but I remember it being approximately that the mean earnings in a year for SAG members is $1400. So H. Ford, Brad Pitt, Angilina Joile, Julia Roberts and a few others getting millions means that the average member gets a couple of hundred.

And the average member can be replaced with Julia Schmuckendorfer, and is all the time. Have you ever been to Los Angelos and looked at all the beautiful women working in malls and restaurants while they dream of making more than their couple hundred bucks a year?

In the SAG, a male, 30 year old minor actor is replaceable, and Harrison Ford was one of them until American Graffiti was a hit.
Pradeep bhatt
Ranch Hand

Joined: Feb 27, 2002
Posts: 8919

There is already a union in India

http://in.rediff.com/money/2008/nov/26bpo-it-bpo-union-to-file-pil-against-working-hours.htm


My advice is never join an union because Union leaders will loot your money.


Groovy
Sri Anand
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 06, 2005
Posts: 392
My advice is never join an union because Union leaders will loot your money.


Yeah thats one disadvantage,The BPO and Software companies are exploiting young people so much. Odd working hours can you believe i worked for mere 41K/Annum(One year onsite USA) after 6 years experience for TOP US clients, that too on 24/7 production support and i was not paid for over time i worked they did'nt allow me to record, it they said you will record time sheet at the end of the project and there was never a time sheet.
[ November 26, 2008: Message edited by: Sri Anand ]
Amaru Shakur
Ranch Hand

Joined: Jul 17, 2008
Posts: 50
well like lawyers are a member of the american BAR association one could think of that as a group to protect that kind of white collar job.

if anything i think the ieee might be the closest for us. its trying to get there but more people need to get on board first


Even though im marked for death I will spark till i loose my breath
Sri Anand
Ranch Hand

Joined: Mar 06, 2005
Posts: 392
Yes,Bar association is a very good example like in Software each Lawyer has a uniqueness , different kind of pay , respect in profession and branch of law etc., And there are no multiple associations/unions for lawyers
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Originally posted by Sri Anand:
And there are no multiple associations/unions for lawyers


There are many different associations for lawyers. The ABA itself has only about 400,000 members I believe.

--Mark
 
 
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