I’ve finally figured out what depresses, frustrates and angers me so much about temp agencies. I’d thought it was merely that they continue to get a significant portion of my paycheck for finding one job for me well over a year ago, but I was wrong–it’s that they continue to get a significant portion of my paycheck to make sure that nobody has to pay me insurance.
Contrary to the stories they tell, temp agencies don’t exist to help you find jobs. Those jobs already exist, and it’d be much easier for the companies involved to simply place ads in newspapers or on the internet for the positions, with the condition that you’d only be hired for a specified period of time. The reason they don’t do this is because they don’t want to actually hire you–if they did, they’d have to pay you what everyone else in the office makes for doing the same job, and they’d probably have to give you insurance.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily apply to positions where a temporary fill-in is needed for someone who is unexpectedly sick. But the truth is, most of the replacements are needed for people who are on extended leave (most companies don’t want to have to pay both a sick day for the regular employee and a day worth of pay for the temp when the regular employee can just catch up the next day), or are to fill positions that are constantly needed by the company. For instance, here at the health department, there are several temps who, without having been brought on to temporarily replace someone, have been working for months doing the same jobs that actual state employees have been doing. These are positions that should be filled by actual employees.
The story I’ve been given as to why they can’t hire these people (specifically me, since they claim they’ve been wanting to for a while) is that there’s a limit on how many people they can hire, based on how many employees are registered as “full-time”. The problem is that there are apparently many “full-time” employees who have only been working part-time, leaving no open spaces for directly hiring additional employees. I like to refer to these people as “please die in your sleep, you inconsiderate fuckass, so I can take over your job and be paid a decent wage”.
Of course, I’m a bit skeptical of this excuse, but that’s mostly because I’m the kind of person who believes things should–at least most of the time–make sense. Then again, none of the seemingly arbitrary protocols of work (particularly in office-type situations) that are adhered to like the tenets of some fanatical religious cult have ever made much sense to me.
And this explanation still dodges other issues: even if they couldn’t hire permanent employees, there shouldn’t be a reason they can’t put out ads for the positions they need filled with specified termination dates.
Which, again, returns to the real explanation: They don’t want to pay insurance or regular wages, even though they want the same work accomplished. This is so audacious that it even defies Capitalism: Adam Smith even said that workers should be interchangeable, like cogs in a machine. And as awful and dehumanizing a comparison as that is, it still implies that the cogs all need the same amount of grease and maintenance.
Enter the temp agency, the entity responsible for bringing this desire of businesses to fruition. Under the guise of a “job placement service”, they allow companies to “hire” temporary employees, and because they’re not actually employees of the business, there’s no requirement for them to pay insurance. And for whatever reason, it’s just accepted as normal that these temporary employees would be paid less than the people they’re replacing for doing the same work. And not only are they paid less, but the temp agency then takes a portion of the employees’ pay themselves, apparently simply because they had the courage to venture the mighty task of giving their phone number to local employers.
And then they wonder why temp workers reportedly steal office supplies. Why the fuck would someone need six staplers? Why would they need forty-seven red pens? I can imagine what they probably do with these things once they get them: I picture garbage cans filled with trashed and abused three-ring binders, and hammer-dented staplers, and aimlessly-fired staples. They’re stolen in frustration, not so much for utility but as a symbol of control in a helpless environment.
What do I hope to accomplish by writing this? Honestly, I would hope to destroy the work ethic of temp workers and potential temp workers everywhere. I would hope that by doing so, awful, degrading and unfair business practices like this would be shown to be detrimental to business. That is, without the incentive, there really ought to be no drive. And simply “to keep your job” should by no means be considered an adequate motivating factor for tolerating sub-level wages and lack of insurance. If I’m not getting paid the same amount as the person I’m replacing, why should I have to do as much work?
Then again, my hopes are, I feel, far overreaching my sense of reality. Our dependence on these jobs merely to get by keeps us almost powerless. After all, as desperate as some of us may be, if we get fired for lack of work ethic, there will always be one more desperate available to fill the position.
And this is a clear indication of how broken our priorities and our system of economy have become.