XPDNC - Suitable Solutions

More about XPDNC

At the turn of the decade

XPDNC began by providing software and paper based solutions to address the problems of overtime distribution and payment among maintenance employees scheduled on rotating shifts in large corporations . These in-plant union/company agreements usually provide sketchy allusions to what are very involved allocation systems at floor level. By and large, only the senior stewards and upper middle management have enough time on the job to settle disputes about overtime and work assignment issues with any degree of mutual satisfaction. The rest of the plant population just 'go with the flow'.
 

XPDNC OT on the horizon

XPDNC created software called XPDNC OT providing a core element called PALSA, an acronym for Plant, Area, Location, Supervisor & Assignment. By incorporating the business rules (actually OT rules, premium pay, vacation allotment and so on), this software took a lot of the headaches out scheduling, OT posting and pay problems. Right on down to junior supervision and new hires was a consistent answer to these work assignment difficulties. They may not have been any more enlightened about how OT was implemented, but they knew the 'computer' processed everyone the same way so problems diminished significantly.

A by-product of PALSA within XPDNC OT was the ability to process emergency overtime as well as to generate payroll forecasts. Furthermore, the canvassing of overtime for future dates became routine and automatic. The software also took into account changes in negotiated pay rates for the length of the agreement. COLA increases and other adjustments could be included as required. Supervision could now post changes to regularly scheduled overtime as well as tentative opportunities to their 'PALSA' group. An employee, with a password, could easily lookup their own future income and upcoming OT opportunities based on the previously inputted requests to their work schedule.
 

XPDNC Dues is born

With that, came the derived computation of past, present and future union dues for unions. A related software was developed, called XPDNC Dues. Now, local unions could be apprised of the dollar value of future dues and budget accordingly. For aggregate local unions, this concept was extended to all the bargaining units within its scope. From the start of the recession right on through the mid 90's, dues revenues had to be closely watched. With all the downswing, revenues got smaller and smaller. Coupled with revolving door personnel changes on the employer side, both in the payroll department and out on the floor, dues reconciliation became very complicated and time consuming.

During the restructuring period in the 90's, local unions extended their organizing efforts to new industry sectors. Many of these new units were in companies that had never been organized before. These employer's payroll activity didn't implement any kind of dues deduction feature. The issued dues checks were often insufficient and the check-off sheets were way out of whack. Most of the newly installed computerized payroll system had growing pains of their own. Many HR reps were embarrassed when this part of the operation couldn't get off the skids. In many cases, the company finance departments looked at the dues issue the same way they looked at other debt issues. "Send us a bill, we'll look it over, and then disburse accordingly."

Some union reps felt that pay and dues reporting problems were symptoms of what they saw as the employer's general disinterest in worker concerns. Overall, both parties seemed to want to put this dues problem to bed, but local unions didn't have an appropriate solution at hand.

Perhaps, the most useful feature within our dues software is the capacity for local union dues processing personal to generate a monthly invoice, called the "Expected Dues Form", for each of the local's bargaining units. This form encompasses the pay rates and work classifications for all unit employees. Each generated form can be faxed to the payroll offices of the corresponding employer, well in advance of the payment deadline. Business managers were heard to cry out "You're spoon feeding them!" Local union treasurers value the feature more!! Union dues processing personnel now discuss the forthcoming payment with the employer's payroll people. The "Expected Dues Form", unlike the typical dues check off sheet, can be viewed with clarity and assurance of its accuracy.

A close second favorite, is the "Dues Offset Report". This form consolidates all the dues errors and omissions that the software uncovered. Sending this form to the employer prompts their review of the previous payment, usually generating payment for the balance owing on the next dues check.

XPDNC OT and XPDNC Dues both use relational databases

XPDNC Dues replaced existing dues softwares that used a 'flat file' structure. These softwares offered little more than computerized forms to fill in. There were no dues processing features available. Entering data that would never be used made their use a drudge for everyone involved. Leading software platforms of their time, such as Btrieve and Dbase could not be suitably programmed to meet the demands to 'keep on top of the dues'. Using the powerful MS-DOS based relational database software platform called Paradox, the steadily updated versions of XPDNC Dues provide superior, well rounded solutions to the never-ending dues processing activity.
 

XPDNC OT, XPDNC Dues and security

The merging of XPDNC OT with XPDNC Dues was the next logical step. By having the XPDNC Dues, running at the local union, obtain information across a data link to XPDNC OT, running at the employer's location, dues reconciliation would be almost impossible to foul up. We were looking at the paradigm set out between health care providers and the patient insurance carries. Doctors, chiropractors, optometrists and other clinicians had just begun to transmit their payment requests on a regular, periodic basis to centralized, data processing services.  Unfortunately, our initiatives in this activity never really took off.

Several reasons loomed large in preventing this solution. Between the parties, there simply wasn't enough trust. Employers weren't going to let any outside agent access their files through dial-up access. Period. Local unions were jittery about having their financial position and membership lists exposed over a telephone line. Neither wanted a third party getting into their affairs either. In their collective minds, using a remote access service, coupled with call-back software implementing passwords, just couldn't be trusted. They felt it just wasn't secure enough. All in-house union employees are well aware of how closely guarded the membership lists are. Unions don't like getting raided any time. And what member wants their employer to know the bottom line in the defense fund? These are powerful obstacles for any software to overcome! We even hear today that redundant firewalls are the minimum unions and employers would need to make them feel less than leery about providing access between their centres.

Another reason involved the making of backups. Local union officials, wanting to keep their information under wraps, were loathe to make enough backups of their own data on a routine basis. For a time, some employers did regularly supply disks of data to local unions. In database management, there can only be one, true, current set of data. This sneakerware solution had the potential to cause important data loss and never extended very far afield. When the application did crash, as all applications do, the union's restored data wasn't in synch with the employer data. The problem: disks from the employer that went missing could not be loaded in sequence. Locals with over fifty bargaining units to service were out of synch a lot of the time. Reams of data had to be re-entered by hand. Everyone blamed the computer.

A third problem arose because of the sale of faster machines pre loaded with an attractive GUI. This forced computer users to upgrade to a flaky operating system that didn't perform well with intensive database applications running in a shell. Machine vendors delivered these machines with software suites that provided LAN capability. Unfortunately, organizations were forced to expend a great deal to train people to administer these network systems just to get the word processing applications to run right. Initially, users could shell out to the operating system and open files they had no business with. Access to the dues data had to be explicitly denied to only those granted specific permission. Doing this proved to be a daunting for all but the most sophisticated techies.

Further, locals wanted to make full use of these new software bundles they had bought and paid for. Money went into training the office staff to use these new platforms in anticipation of the release of  'perfect' software solutions. MS-DOS applications seemed to be on the way out for the office environment. These new machines also came pre loaded with dial-up Internet access capabilities. This further threat of access to the 'dues data' resulted in having 'lesser computers' dedicated to MS-DOS software, in effect, set aside for 'dues only'.

Several locals we've approached have expressed a reluctance to automate their dues activities because of inter organizational disputes involving the reporting of per capita tax. The possibility of data links and information exchange between these groups raises great concerns in both parties. Software can't address these types of concerns.

Finally, over time, there's been extensive media hype about a myriad of pending computer problems such as Y2K, viruses and hackers making denial of service attacks. This has left many potential users of all but the most necessary software to take a 'wait and see what happens' approach.
 

At the turn of the millennium

To be sure, the demand for our software solution from new users has dropped off. We attribute this directly to two distinct causes. First, the dynamic, robust economy is paramount. With such low unemployment rates, and such high corporate revenues, the difficulty in resolving dues disputes has been reduced. Secondly, many local union have become more computer savvy, and have implemented their own form of financial software solution that suites their needs. Our product does not address the gamut of fiscal issues a union faces, only dues processing. Moreover, competition comes into play. When we initially launched our site, there were a couple of other union software packages available. They were MS-DOS based also. These suppliers seemed to have moved away from dues processing today, involving themselves in the processing of similar data elements with software / hardware packages at prisons, food warehouses, etc. Still, we list about thirty links for membership software developed for a variety of platforms and perspectives. These vendors thrive because of the need their products fill.

We have been awaiting the results of the Microsoft / US government trial to get a better feel for how the software market will open up. Latest computer industry reports about client / server software solutions with dynamic pages using such technologies as CORBA, Java Sevelets and Java Server Pages indicate to us that there are new avenues for us to offer secure, online dues processing capabilities over the Internet. We hope to develop dues processing power for unions by offering them thin-clients accessing their own servers or servers at our location. Former Netscape developers are currently working on the ability to have software run almost entirely at the server with only very limited code on the client. This would ensure the process of software updates to be automatic and free the user from associated difficulties.

Of course, such an endeavor is fraught with the usual items that must be addressed for any successful widespread software implementation: determining the actual demand for the application, price, product positioning, securing big time financing, versioning and product life span cycle development, reliability concerns, trust building for LAN and online inter-office operations, and so on.
 

In the meanwhile, lots of links

Since offering XPDNC Dues through brochureware on the Web, we've accumulated a large collection of other links. Initially, we were continually emailed for the names of other software vendors who could supply a specific solution that we do not, such as recording pension details, H&W, honoraria, etc. We posted links to sites we found, and the corresponding email requests declined. Next, we were inundated with all kinds of requests for union related info. As one fellow put it, "When I wanted a new rider mower, I looked up the dealer locations on-line at the manufacture's site. Do you have a same kind of list about unions in my vicinity?". At that time, we only found fifty labor related sites on the Web. We began posting our lists of union resources in order to stem that tide too. search engines indexed all the pages of our site. From then on, hits to our links pages far exceeded those to our product pages. But how our list of links continues to grow!

In November 99, we replaced our former index page, which featured XPDNC Dues, with a simple splash page. Now, anyone accessing our site can find all the union links they need. And we'll keep right on posting new ones as we become aware of them. We strongly support the current user base of our software and part of this site relates to them. Meantime, happy surfing!
 

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