#368: On Call in Canada – What are your rights?


#368: On Call in Canada – What are your rights?

I was wary to post more on this subject, but here goes!  The last time I brought this subject up, it resulted in behind-the-scenes fallout with two guys that used to work under me at the Record Store, who did not agree with my stance. They did get me thinking though, and since that time I have tried to find out more about worker’s rights in Ontario on this specific issue…and I finally got my answer!

My question was this:  Can an employer order you to use your own personal cell phone, for work (specifically retail) purposes, without compensation or prior agreement?

Some additional details to fill in the blanks:

1. I was a store manager.  Managers were required to make themselves available when needed.

2. I bought my cell phone myself in May of 2000.  It was purchased after getting lost on a weekend trip up to Huntsville in the middle of the night.  I decided, “Well, I never want to feel that isolated again,” so I went to the Bell store at the mall with my buddy T-Rev and selected a phone.  That phone lasted me until 2006, which wasn’t bad at all.

3. I did allow work to call my cell phone in the past.  I did not keep the number secret and I posted it so that I could be called in case of emergency.  This was my secondary contact number, because most of the time the phone was shut off.  My landline was my primary contact.  My cell wasn’t even all that helpful, much of time.  There was no cell phone reception up at the cottage, where I spent most of my summer weekends, but for years this was not a problem.

4. Not all store managers even had cell phones.  Joe aka “Big Nose” did not have a cell phone that I knew of.  If he did, he was smart enough not to tell anyone about it.  I was a friend of his and I didn’t have his cell number, if it existed.

So when my direct supervisor stormed in on the morning of December 19, 2005 after a weekend crisis while I was out of the house for an hour and unavailable on the phone, they demanded that I leave my personal phone on “from now on”.  I have always assumed that I must have had some rights on that issue.  Allowing work to call my cell is one thing, but being ordered to leave my phone on 24/7?

Since I had been looking for an “exit strategy” for a while, I used this cell phone disagreement as a justification in my mind to give them my notice.  I did not feel “entitled” to any special treatment, I simply wanted to be treated fairly.  But I had no fight left in me, and I wanted out more than I wanted to stay.  But if I had stayed…could they have made me keep my cell phone on 24/7?

A legal source informed me that no, an employer cannot order you to use a cell phone that they didn’t pay for.  End of story. Period.

“You did nothing wrong,” said the lawyer. “You’re weren’t working for the Fire Department.”  And I finally know that I was right.

I have no regrets today, and the store that I used to work for continues to thrive.  I am glad for that; the store was a huge chunk (28.5%) of my life on Earth.  The parting was done amicably, and I am proud of everything we achieved as a team.  I am left with these wonderful Record Store Tales to remember one of the most exciting and interesting times in my life!



Part 307: Court



I can only say so much about this subject, for hopefully obvious reasons. I can say this: Yes, I have had to testify in court, in a case of stolen CDs.

It was the Monday after Mother’s Day, in the year 2000. It was a long, ongoing case, a break and enter. I had forgotten all about it. I had made my written statement a year prior. The store had done nothing wrong. We did everything exactly as we had to, when dealing with a situation like this. As per the instructions of the police, we took all the correct ID from the suspect when buying the CDs, and followed all the correct procedures. When dealing with stolen goods, the police actually preferred us to buy the goods rather than send the person away. That way, they get evidence.

Unfortunately since I was the buyer this time, I was a witness and was therefore subpoenaed to testify. Two of my co-workers from other stores also had to appear in court. I was the only one who decided to wear a suit and tie for my appearance. The other two came in jeans and T-shirts.

“Mike!” laughed Cam. “What are you wearing a suit for? You look like you’re the one on trial!” I looked around. Indeed, the only people who seemed to be dressed as nicely as me were the people who were on trial and their lawyers! And I didn’t look like a lawyer.

“I thought you had to wear a suit to court,” I said in ignorance.

Without going into details, here’s what I remember:

– Cam got a parking ticket because there wasn’t any parking available.
– We spent hours waiting in a room that looked like school class room. Hungry and unable to leave, we decided to order a pizza. We pooled our cash together but didn’t have much left for a tip. I remember that the delivery guy threw the extra coins back at us.
– A year after the incident, I couldn’t remember what the guy looked like. I remember him being big, and bald. That was not enough to satisfy the court that I could recognize the accused. My testimony was all but useless.

I remember reading in the paper a short while later that the defense lawyer got his client off. It wasn’t really a surprise to me.

I only had to go to court twice, both for this one case. The experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The store had paid cash for the CDs we bought from this guy, but we never got compensated for them when the police took them as evidence. In my experience, we only ever got compensated once, and that was just for four CDs. Although we always cooperated with the system, and made sure we always followed procedure, we got burned too.

REVIEW: Fight – War of Words (1993)

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Part 1 of a miniseries on Rob Halford’s solo career!


FIGHT – War of Words (1993 Sony)

I was devastated when Rob Halford left Priest.  I was so heavily invested emotionally in the excellent Painkiller album, I couldn’t believe it was over!  Last I had heard, the band were going to be working on two new songs for a greatest hits album (Metal Works) and then Rob would take a break to do a solo album.  Instead, the band split completely!  Halford and drummer extraordinaire Scott Travis formed Fight with guitarists Russ Parish and Brian Tilse, and the bass player from hell, Jay Jay.   (Today, Parish goes by the name “Satchel” when he plays with Steel Panther!)  Regarding Jay Jay, Halford says that he did a number of Rob’s own tattoos.  Rob figured if he could play bass as well he he tattooed, he was in.  Jay Jay also does the grunt-metal backing vocals.

The resulting album, War of Words, is a Pantera-esque thrash-fest, one of the heaviest things Rob had ever done (until Halford’s Crucible album), undeniable brutal, scream-laden, and punishing from start to finish.  Halford had cleverly assembled two shredding guitar players with differing styles too:  Tilse specialized in the noisy speedy solos, while Parrish played the more melodic and traditional speedy solos!  War of Words is solo nirvana for fans of Rob and Priest.  And Rob wrote every single song by himself.

The twin openers, “Into the Pit” and “Nailed to the Gun”, are two of a kind:  they are rip-yer-head-off thrashers with Rob’s patented glass-breaking screams.  The song structures on War of Words are simpler than what we heard with Priest, no doubt since Rob composed the songs by himself.  This simplicity serves to make the album feel even heavier and more relentless.

The lyrics, just as simple and aggressive.  “Into the Pit” doesn’t feature much in the way of poetry:

Conspiring, for sation
Malfeasance, on high
Obstruction, of duty
Disorder, will rise

Rob takes the pace back a bit on the third track, “Life in Black” which I don’t think you can fairly call a ballad, to me it’s more Dio-era Sabbath with a very vintage-Dio sounding solo.  (Rob had just helped out Sabbath live after Dio left, singing lead for two shows while opening for Ozzy Osbourne.)  Meanwhile “Immortal Sin” bears a slow groove with a melodic chorus, downtuned but a bright spot in the proceedings.

The title track opens with the American First Amendment (Rob was living in Phoenix).  It’s another aural assault with Rob keeping his vocals in the upper register.  Travis’ incredible drumming punctuates every venomous word.  Considering that less than three years prior, Rob (with Priest) was in court defending his band during the infamous “suicide trial”, the words are apt.

Dream Deceivers, directed by David Van Taylor, the excellent documentary on the Judas Priest trial

It’s back to dark haunting territory next:  “Laid to Rest” ended the first side of the album.  I find this one to contain one of Rob’s best vocal performances of the album.  It’s reminiscent of “A Touch of Evil” by Priest, but downtuned and slightly exotic.

Side Two’s opener, “For All Eternity” is really the final reprieve.  It is most definitely a power ballad in vintage Priest vibe, but again with the modern downtuned guitars.  A song like this really proved Rob’s songwriting chops.  He’s capable of writing emotive, catchy powerful music completely on his own, and the song is an achievement.  The bridge around 2:25 is just awesomeness, but Tilse’s guitar solo completes the picture.  As if that wasn’t enough, Rob returns to full on scream mode for the end.

“Little Crazy” was a critically acclaimed heavy metal blues, and the second single/video.  I’m struggling to describe it beyond “heavy metal blues”, but this song is definitely a highlight.  Rob puts everything he has into the slinky lead vocal, while band fuse the blues feel with heavy metal’s precision.  I recall reviews of the time saying, “If Rob wanted to drop metal and go full-on blues, he could.”  Now that would be interesting.

The rest of the album is no-holds-barred.  The triple threat of “Contortion”, “Kill It”, and “Vicious” is almost too much.  Each song strips everything down to the basics:  simple riffs, violent words, relentless drums, without much in terms of melody.  This is the most difficult part of the album to penetrate.  In time the three songs grow.  “Contortion” protests what we are doing to the Earth with angry frustration.  “Kill It” is about TV preachers (whom I’m sure had their opinions on Priest during the trial).  “Vicious” was always my favourite of the trio:

You cheating, lying, mother-fucking son of a bitch..

Vicious, vicious,
Fucker, fucker!

I was going through an angry phase at the time!

Rob saved the best track for last.  “Reality: A New Beginning” is a weighty epic, a perfect closer, slightly exotic and successfully combining Fight’s heavy side with Rob’s ability to write great melodies.  This is simply an incredible song, a jewel in Halford’s crown, and a song which definitely deserves another look.  The lyrics seem to be autobiographical:

This time, when I’m leaving,
Who cares where I’ll go?

There was a hidden CD bonus track (not on cassette) after a five minute silence, a jokey song called “Jesus Saves”.  Rob’s voice is electronically manipulated to sound…well, not sure what he’s supposed to sound like.  An angry elf, I guess.

4.75/5 stars

There are some supplementary releases available:

1. This one is on my wishlist, I don’t own a physical copy:  In 1994 Fight released a Christmas CD single called “Christmas Ride” with a message from Rob!  They later reissued this as a free download from Rob’s site, but that is no longer around.

2. The live/remix EP, Mutations (next up in this series of reviews).

3. In 2007, a demo album called K5: The War of Words Demos was released.  This featured demo versions of most of the album, plus five more.  These include four new songs, and “Psycho Suicide” which was later remade for the second Fight album, A Small Deadly Space.   The demos reveal that a much more conventional-sounding metal album was initially planned.  (“The Beast Denies” is a very different version of “Reality: A New Beginning”.)

4. The 2008 Fight box set Into the Pit contains remixed versions of War of Words (again without “Jesus Saves”) and A Small Deadly Space.  But the cool thing it contains is a DVD, Fight Live In Phoenix.  The band rips through the entire album, in sequence (no “Jesus Saves”!) and then Rob’s solo track, “Light Comes Out of Black” (from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie soundtrack).

5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer original motion picture soundtrack.  This is the only place you can get the studio version of “Light Comes Out of Black”, featuring his backing band…Pantera.  All of Pantera.

I like “Light Comes Out of Black”, but it’s a lot easier to swallow than Fight is on first listen.  I remember a M.E.A.T Magazine interview with Glenn Tipton and KK Downing, where they trashed it.  “If it were on Painkiller, it would be one of the weaker songs, if not the weakest,” said KK.

KK might have been right about that to a certain extent, but only because Painkiller consists of 10 awesome songs!