Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The pest of temporal employment

We’re in the middle of a crisis and nobody wants to lose his or her job. That much is for sure. If that means drifting into temporal employment, then it has to be done. Really?

Even though I can’t say anything bad about my own temporal employment agency, I’ve had experiences enough. Usually, working for such an agency means lower pay than people who work directly for a company get. It also means being seen as someone lower up the ladder of the hierarchy. And it means, of course, that you never know how long you’ll be working somewhere.

All in all, working for a temporal employment agency is a rather uncertain affair. And it is something which more and more people in Germany get subjected to. In fact, there’s quite some companies which found their own agencies in order to put their workers into those agencies and then rent them back. That seems quite illogical, but it seems to work from a financial point of view.

At a time when the government wants more children, it makes the decision for people whether to become parents even harder. And politicians even claim that there is no other way...

Isn’t there? The global market just goes that far. There are jobs that can’t be taken to another, cheaper country. A lot of production has left Germany anyway. And some of them come back, because they realize that less pay might also mean less quality.

And there’s something we call the law. The government can make certain dealings of the companies illegal, if they decide it harms society. That’s why you create laws against something, because it harms society on the whole.

The German government could render any wages below the tariff contracts in Germany illegal. Then it would be punishable (by prison or a very hefty fine) to pay your employees less than the wages the unions and the representatives of the employers have agreed on. The government could render this ‘we found our own temporal employment agency and then rent our workers back for lower pay’-business illegal, too.

Admittedly, the employees could do more to fight for their rights, too. In France, our neighbouring country, trains will stand completely still if the employees of the transport company decided to go on strike. It’s not just a ‘this train station today, this train station tomorrow’-affair like they did it in Germany. We do not have a history for going on strike without any reservations - and the employers in Germany know that. Even that slightly half-hearted strike of the employees of the Germany train company was seen as a very strong threat against the employers - and the all-mighty employers broke down. (Because transport is indeed something you can’t outsource to China or Eastern Europe.) Imagine what would happen if employees in Germany acquired a reputation for going on real no-nonsense strikes to strengthen their position towards the employers.

But back to temporal employment. It an uncertain form of employment that harms - or at least threatens to harm - society. There are specific areas of employment where the temporal form has its use. As a replacement for someone on vacation - or a sudden sickness. As a boost during a very busy time. As a short-lived need for another employee. Or maybe, if it really needs to be, in order to preselect the applicants for a new job. But today, if you get a job via temporal employment, you’re going to stay in temporal employment. It’s not just the principle ‘we’ll find someone over temporal employment and after a while we’ll hire him or her for real.’ It’s the principle ‘we hire on temporal employment, pay the higher costs for it and will therefore be able to fire people at will - and it’s fashionable, too.’

This makes me so sick, I want to puke. Temporal employment the way it’s used these days is a pest, a disease that should be fought, not supported. But the government ignores it.

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