Saturday, October 06, 2012

Time for temps to resist

Working through agencies has become the new normal. Instead of the traditional way of connecting people to work--employing them directly--corporations rely on agencies to supply workers. It’s a perfect tool for displacing regular workers and getting around unions and workers’ rights. Government policies that abet the downward spiral of deteriorating rights and labor conditions. It’s a win-win for firms, which get the labor of a regular workforce without taking on the responsibilities. Workers, meanwhile, are typically deprived of adequate union representation or other leverage to hold the contractor or the firm responsible on issues like leave benefits and workplace safety. That leaves them vulnerable to discrimination and unfair treatment.

Approximately 60% of the 400,000 workers in Mexico’s electronics industry work for temporary agencies, with some companies employing as much as 90% of their workforce through agencies.  In Russia the agencies are serving nearly 75% of foreign companies and 35-50% of Russian companies. In Spain temporary work constitutes 30.9% of all employment, and agency work accounts for 1 in 6 of all temporary contracts. One study on Indian workers “found that 30% of all workers in the private sector are employed via contractors, with levels in manufacturing up to 50%. In China an estimated 60 million are temporary workers. Nokia and Apple, as well as government-run companies, are known to stock their assembly lines with a dense second tier of contract labor.

What the labor agencies euphemistically describe as “flexible” labor is a dead end for countless workers. One study on workers in the Philippines shows, according to the report, “only 11% of agency workers move to regular, permanent or full-time work, 36% are not rehired and less than 1% of employers intend to convert agency jobs into regular positions. In the U.S., just a fraction of temporary agency workers land a permanent position--maybe one reason why the chronic insecurity of the legions of underemployed workers persists despite the so-called economic “recovery.”

Wherever you are in the world, it’s getting harder to tell who’s responsible for making your workday miserable. The solution for workers comes down to grassroots resistance by simply refusing to comply with exploitation from any corporation or agency. If enough workers stand up, it doesn’t matter whom they call boss, so long as they’re ready to fight.

adapted from here

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