I know this trend is not new; I have seen its burgeoning origins about twenty years ago. Temp. agencies have been around for a long time; they mainly catered to the white collar and clerical fields for employees who were either ill or pregnant. My first contact with the Temp. industry was in my early twenties with a company called Staffing Inititive after fininshing a five year stint at Dimplex North America. Back then you could count local staffing agencies with the digits of one hand. Staffing Initiative is no longer around; it was probably squeezed out by the larger franchises both foriegn and domestic. Most of the old ones are gone with the possible exception of Kelly’s Service. Kelly’s Service is a fortune five hundred company which I find fitting considering the fact that they amassed a great deal of wealth by exploiting the labours of others.
I spent about two years working as a temp. and I can say with all sincerity that it was the most frustrating and nerve racking experience of my working life. Their maybe some apologists who will argue when I say that the Temp. Industry is nothing but a racket that has really nothing to do with helping someone find a job or the right fit for a carreer; rather the real goal is self enrichment. To those apologists I say; try working in a place for almost a year; show up everyday,keen to work only to find out that there is no chance of ever being hired on full time although you perform an essential task. There are phsychological ramifications rarely considered in the class warfare of one class preying another. There is an ever prevading anxiety about whether or not one will find themselves out of work if production slows down and the fact that the person working next to you makes more money performing the same task as you because they had the good fortune to be hired by the company directly. On the other side of the coin I’ve heard complaints from coworkers about the fact that temps were lazy with no sense of loyalty or morale. I always say you can’t blame them; it is almost as ludicrous as expecting a kleenex to be loyal to ones nose.
If you search the job bank you will find that about ninety percent of the manufacturing jobs are brokered by staffing agencies. In Cambridge alone there are twenty four staffing agencies not including agencies from Kitchener and Waterloo with contracts with local companies. Eight of these agencies are American franchises that include; Express Employment Professionals (Washington D.C),Kelly’s Service (Troy Michigan), Labour Ready Temp. Service (Tacoma Washington),Liberty Staffing Service Inc.(Barrington Rhode Island), Todays Staffing (Dallas Texas), Universal Staffing Inc. (Orlando Florida), Iqor (New York New York), and All Staff Service Inc. (Pheonix Arizona). I was sure that at one time there was a provision in the law that companies were required to hire workers on full time after three months. Either the law has changed,never existed or is just never enforced. It goes to show that our vetted, well heeled elected officials are always ready to sell out their constituents to the highest bidder. I think it is no accident that the rise of the Temp. Industry rose in tandem with the mass exodus of our manufacturing base in favour of what is euphemistically termed outsourcing. I personally prefer the more honest term; slavery. The Temp.Industry and outsourcing were the weapons used by indusrialist’s to undermine the unions and to free companies from paying their employee’s benefits. The blue collar worker; once the back bone of the economy is quickly becoming a thing of the past as we move towards a service industry and a wellfare state.
Futurist Alvin Toffler wrote in the nineteen seventies in his books Future Shock and The Third Wave that we were evolving into a disposable society. What he foresaw as a technocratic golden age on the close of the Industrial Revolution; I tend to view with apprehension. Outsourcing benefits nobody but the captians of industry; ask the Chinese workers on the X Box three sixty assembly lines for contract manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group in the central city of Wuhan threatening mass suicide after being told that they would be layed off with offers of severence being reneged for those who were not transfered. I see no discernable benefits in the Temp. Industry system either that crushes the laudable qualities of pride in workmanship and a good work ethic. If you read the false platitudes of the mission statements of these agencies they read like the blatant, manipulative, false sentimental adds for banks and insurance companies peddling the ridiculous notion that they are here to serve you. In my view there seems to be only crumbs left for us to fight over in the technocratic age for those who are not endowed with the right education and even the well educated will not be immune to the destruction of our industrial base. We have become a disposable society of not only over priced, junk products, third world made with the edicts of obsoletism but also one of disposable workers. I believe that a society that cannot look after its own is a society that is in decline.