My talk today will focus on two studies to offer two different insights on temporary agency work. In the first half, I focus on a group of agency temporary workers in the US who pursued collective representation to improve their working conditions. In the second half, I focus on the use of temporary workers by call centres in the UK, US and Canada to put the use of these arrangements in a cross-national perspective.
1. In North America, various forms of labor market intermediaries are part of the labor market for temporary workers—for profit—such as in the case of temporary employment agencies, and non-profit, such as professional associations and unions that are part of the labor market for temporary agency workers. 2. The legal status of temporary agency workers in the US for example complicates their access to collective bargaining and so, this along with suspicion about unions has led agency temporary workers to join and form professional associations that advocate on their behalf and provide access to benefits, training and career development. 3. Reliance on non-standard work arrangements has expanded. While we know about the downside of these employment arrangements for low-skilled workers, less is known about whether higher skilled employees experience a downside as a result of these employment arrangements. What exactly is a labor market intermediary?? 1.Labor market intermediaries --affect the efficiency of the labor market by participating in job matching, --broadened beyond job matching to include workforce development and address inequities in the areas of wages, benefits, job security, and career advancement . -- many different forms, Chris Benner who has researched the role of labor market intermediaries distinguishes between--for-profit lmis such as temporary employment agencies, and membership based organizations such as professional associations and unions. Connected to the growth in labor market intermediaries, is the growth in flexible employment relationships. --low-skilled workers experience as a result of variations in employment status. However, it has been assumed that well-compensated, high-skilled workers do not experience a downside in their employment conditions as a result of flexible employment relationships. --Gideon Kunda and Steve Barley started to address these questions in their study of 53 technical contractors. They found that well compensated, high-skilled technical contractors also experience a downside in their “free agency” employment relationships particularly in the areas of XXX What do I mean by employment conditions?
In thinking about efforts to represent non-standard workers, four theoretical models have emerged as possible alternatives. I re-interpret these models to fit with the experiences of high-tech workers because some of the models were originally based on low-wage and low-skilled workers. Occupational Unionism, builds on the craft model, involves --organizing workers along an occupational dimension in the same geographic region --transferring control over the labor supply to workers through the creation of hiring halls. --with the union becoming the source of benefits and training. --Workers would have job security because of the closed shop environment. Features of the second model, associational unionism, includes suggesting organizing workers across multiple dimensions such as gender and occupation. -recommends the use of multiple tactics -builds alliances with other organizations -creates information sharing networks
Geographical occupational unionism meanwhile proposes --organizing workers in a specific region with common occupational interests. --differs from occupational unionism because it includes the negotiation of multi-employer collective bargaining agreements. --loyalty to skill replaces loyalty to employer In the fourth model, citizenship unionism, recommends the --the formation of citizenship unions that would also represent the interests of workers and citizens in the community. -in partnership with area employers, it would offer training and childcare through the establishment of Training, Retraining & Upskilling CTRS TRUCS not only for union members but for members of the community. -unions would provide benefits and legal services -Union and employers would upgrade skills of workers in the region benefitting firms in the area Now I will compare these theoretical models with a real initiative to represent high-tech, contingent workers.
In 2002, I studied a case involving agency temporary workers who were working at Microsoft in Seattle to better understand why these workers pursued collective representation. This workforce were assigned to several temporary agencies, and in some cases, were directed by MS to sign up with a particular agency. In the 1990s, the IRS investigated MS for misclassifying independent contractors. To remedy the situation, these workers were classified as full-time employees or were directed to sign up with a temporary agency. Some of the former independent contractors sued MS for benefits they should have received during their period of misclassification. This lawsuit brought to light that many agency temps had been working at MS for years. In 1998, 35% of Microsoft’s Seattle workforce were agency contractors. Their job titles included internet content creation, software testing & documentation. Fairer wages and benefits than were offered by their temp agencies—different benefit packages Training-remain competitive-- A voice in their employment relationship-non-compete clauses; elimination of OT for temps who earn more than $27 per hour; 100 day break in service; blue badges/orange badges, access to company discounts, sports fields Respect Many of these demands could be addressed through collective bargaining: However, obstacles to collective bargaining exist for temporary workers: Under the NLRA, temporary workers can join existing bargaining units alongside full-timers, but the NLRB requires that temporary workers and full-time employees share a sufficient community of interest. Characteristics such as similarity of wages, working conditions and regularity of employment comprise the community of interest guideline. Temp workers move from job to job and therefore, this complicates them meeting the community of interest guideline. 2. IN situations where the employer and the temp agency are considered joint employers, the MB Sturgis decision in 2000 permitted temps to be included alongside full-timers in pre-existing bargaining units without requiring the consent of both the temp agency and the employer. 3. Temp workers can also organize their own bargaining unit but characteristics such as multiple worksites, high levels of mobility discourage that. In 1990 IRS investigated -misclassifying common-law employees as independent contractors. -Microsoft converted many of these workers into either full-time positions or transferred them to the payrolls of temporary employment agencies. Lawsuit -- Some of the former independent contractors asked Microsoft to compensate them for the benefits they were denied as a result of their misclassification. --Microsoft refused and in 1992, and the workers filed a lawsuit against Microsoft. --It was finally settled in 2001 with Microsoft offered workers a $97 million settlement. The case brought to light many aspects of Microsoft’s staffing strategy, in particular, many - PERMATEMPS agency contractors who were classified as temporary, were, in fact, working for Microsoft for years. -In 1998, 35% of Microsoft’s Seattle workforce were agency contractors -job titles: internet content creation, software testing & documentation While the Vizcaino case addressed some of the worker’s demands, others remained. Worker Demands: Fairer wages and benefits than were offered by their temp agencies Training A voice in their employment relationship Respect Many of these demands could be addressed through collective bargaining: However, obstacles to collective bargaining exist for temporary workers: Under the NLRA, temporary workers can join existing bargaining units alongside full-timers, but the NLRB requires that temporary workers and full-time employees share a sufficient community of interest. Characteristics such as similarity of wages, working conditions and regularity of employment comprise the community of interest guideline. Temp workers move from job to job and therefore, this complicates them meeting the community of interest guideline. 2. IN situations where the employer and the temp agency are considered joint employers, the MB Sturgis decision in 2000 permitted temps to be included alongside full-timers in pre-existing bargaining units without requiring the consent of both the temp agency and the employer. 3. Temp workers can also organize their own bargaining unit but characteristics such as multiple worksites, high levels of mobility discourage that.
WASHTECH has engaged in formal collective bargaining but it has enjoyed more success on the mutual aid and political action fronts. TaxSaver tried to organize a negotiating unit, as did at amazon.com. In the first case, they did not reach a collective agreement but working conditions were improved. In the Amazon case, steps were taken to gather signatures for a bargaining unit but during the process, the customer service jobs were offshored to India. Currently represent IT workers at 90 companies in Seattle. Thought about being a non-profit temp agency but viewed offering training as a better role. Provide accurate information about the better temp agencies, and about employment related issues. Active in politics—elected X, active in lobbying at the federal and state level about the offshore outsourcing issue. Helped educated politicians on the issues confronting the IT workforce such as H1-B visas and offshore outsourcing. Coalitions: builds broad coalitions with other interest groups at both the state and national level to help draw attn to the issues confronting the non-standard workforce. While the elimination of overtime provided the catalyst for the formation of WashTech, Workers demands included fairer wages and benefits, training, respect, and advocacy. Because the temp agency did not provide support to workers, it pushed IT workers to form a labor market intermediary that would advocate on their behalf. They decided to affiliate with a union to gain access to more resources with which to challenge Microsoft. What did WashTech do? classic traditional union functions albeit a different mix (1) Collective bargaining impeded by legal obstacles discouraging the representation of temporary workers, (2) Mutual aid, (3) political action [defined by the webbs-who are they] In 1999, WashTech tried to organize a highly skilled workgroup at MS. MS and temp agencies refused to bargain with WashTech/CWA In 2000, WashTech targetted amazon.com’s full-time customer service workforce. The company responded to the organizing drive by relocating the jobs to India and laying off 400 workers in Seattle. While WashTech has tried to engage in collective bargaining it has encountered several obstacles. It has had more success with mutual aid and political action. Mutual Aid Training in partnership with the CWA (April 2001) Information—for example In October 1999, WashTech discovered that MS was maintaining Personnel Files in agency contractors and denying them access to those files, a practice that is illegal in Washington State. Political Action Proposing and Supporting legislation— for example In March 2002, Washington Governor Gary Locke signed a bill designed to prohibit employers from misclassifying public employees or from engaging in any action to avoid providing workers with the benefits they are entitled to under state law, employer policies or collective bargaining agreements.
In comparing WashTech’s approach with the theoretical models, In terms of unifying principles: the geographic occupational unionism model and the associational model are closest to WashTech’s use of a locational and broad occupational focus. In terms of benefits and advocacy, associational unionism and citizenship unionism are closest to WashTech’s approach. In both cases, the union as opposed to the employer becomes responsible for providing workers with benefits. In terms of training, citizenship unionism with its creation of training centers is closest to WashTech’s establishment of a high-tech training center in partnership with the CWA.
WashTech/CWA’s approach has limitations: High-tech workers can access many of their services through their website which encourages -- free riders. --move between employment classifications and employers. --hard to convince them to become members. Analysis of WashTech/CWA compared with these four theoretical models reveals that these workers have a diverse set of interests. It is too early to tell whether Washtech may come to resemble one of the theoretical models to a larger extent and how the model will differ for other groups of contingent workers. From the WashTech experience, it appears that a representative strategy that combines various strategies may best serve the needs of high tech contingent workers.
I’ve been involved with an international study of employment systems in call centres led by Rosemary Batt of Cornell University, david Holman of Sheffield University and Ursula Holtgrewe of Forba. The study involves researchers in 20 countries who administered the same survey to call centre managers to understand whether labor market institutions are still influencing HR practices and employee outcomes in these workplaces.
I focused on the use of temporary agency workers and other types of workforce flexibility that firms are using to accommodate fluctuations in call volume that occurs. Workforce flexibility refers to a firm’s capacity to alter task allocation and labor force size in response to demand fluctuations. Not much research exists that investigates the use of non-standard workers at the establishment level of analysis from the cross-national perspective. Most of the comparative research is based on cross-industry-level aggregate datasets. Therefore, we know little about why employers choose one type of workforce flexibility over another. How do firms meet their needs for workforce flexibility? I focus on those employed on part-time and temporary contracts. In what ways do national level institutions shape these decisions? In this study, we focused on liberal market economies, specifically, Canada, the US and the UK because given that these countries have similar labor market institutions, we wanted to test the assumption of whether firms operating in these countries would make similar or different choices about workforce flexibility.
We expected that the presence of strong dismissal regulations in Canada and the UK compared with the US would result in these countries relying on part-time and temporary contracts to a greater extent as a way to enhance the flexibility of their workforce. Consistent with this reasoning, we also expected that unionized centres would use part-time and temporary contracts to a greater extent than non-union centres. Mixed findings about this relationship—positive, negative or not related. We theorized that unions in these workplaces might tolerate the use of temporary and part-timers to protect full-time jobs.
We collected data from the call centre’s senior manager. In some countries, we surveyed by phone whereas in other methods. Each country team also spent some time in call centres within their respective country to better understand the survey findings.
Tobit regression—given that the dependent variables are left censored We estimated full models with country interaction terms using the US as the omitted variable to evaluate whether the main effects would hold across countries. We controlled for differences in organizational and workforce characteristics.
Descriptive statistics compared across countries– the general pattern is that call centres in Canada and the UK use part-time and temporary workers to a greater extent than in the US. Significant? Pt-us/canada significant Temp-US/canada & US/UK
We explored these relationships further using multivariate analysis and found support for these hypotheses. Why—because dismissal regulations are stronger in both countries than in the US and the use of non-standard contracts offers employers an alternative to dismissal. What about relationship to HPWS
Why does this matter? Strength of employment regulations has unintended consequences. US Managers operating call centres in Canada-subtle differences matter Union presence in the service sector is weak, where unions are present they may be unable to influence these decisions, They may recognize the inherent flexibility associated with this free-wheeling industry. Limitations—only spoke with one manager question the reliability of the data; differences in how data was collected in different countries; greater range in types of workforce flexibility we examine
UNIONS AND TEMPORARY AGENCY WORKERS Danielle van Jaarsveld Assistant Professor, Sauder School of Business University of British Columbia