Corporate America is stuck between a rock and a hard place. More accurately, between customer and service. Ultimately, any company that has a customer is in the customer service business. But few CEOs and other big wigs like to think of themselves that way. They like to think they’re developers or accountants or what have you. Besides, delivering service and supporting a complex product costs money, and cost is a four letter word. Solution? Hire temps!
Reuters – Wal-Mart Stores Inc has in recent months been only hiring temporary workers at many of its U.S. stores, the first time the world’s largest retailer has done so outside of the holiday shopping season. A Reuters survey of 52 stores run by the largest U.S. private employer in the past month, including one in every U.S. state, showed that 27 were hiring only temps, 20 were hiring a combination of regular full, part-time and temp jobs, and five were not hiring at all. The survey was based on interviews with managers, sales staff and human resource department employees at the stores.
The new hiring policy is to ensure “we are staffed appropriately,” when the stores are busiest and is not a cost-cutting move, said company spokesman David Tovar. Temporary workers, he said, are paid the same starting pay as other workers. Using temporary workers enables the company to have adequate staff on busy weeknights and weekends without having to hire additional full-time staff.
Tovar said fewer than 10 percent of its U.S. workforce is temporary – or what the company internally calls “flexible associates” – compared to 1 to 2 percent before 2013. The majority of its workforce is still regular full-time staff, he said.
When you stop and think about it, from the perspective of a sociopath or a megalomaniac, this makes all kinds of sense. Temps aren’t employees so they don’t get employee benefits. No insurance, no paid days off, no sick days, no 401-k, not even unpaid holidays. The low paying job I have now started as a six month temp assignment, woops, a flexible associate. I like to think of it as getting on the elevator to economic hell, or being placed on the economic no fly list. I vividly recall going to the bathroom once at three in the morning between Christmas and New Year’s Eve where another temp was puking his guts out loudly and endlessly.
He was afraid he’d have to leave for the day. See, the temp staffing agency gave us three strikes, no doubt at the behest of the employer but conveniently blamed completely on the staffing agency. Miss more than a few minutes of the shift and it was a “point”. Three points and you were fired, no excuses. Doesn’t matter if you got rear-ended at the stop-light on the street outside and were comatose in ICU, doesn’t matter how good you performed, you’d be fired before regaining consciousness.
Not long afterward the company itself adopted essentially the same policy. The company practically bragged about this. Rolling it out at a meeting to decidedly scattered, nervous applause as if they were proud of it. On a side note, when you try to explain how bad things have become, how completely corporations run roughshod over basic human decency and ruin lives right and left these days, the people you are talking to can’t really seem to process it. Especially if they’re baby boomers or older, they judge everything by their own experience, much of which developed during times when the ability to fog a mirror was a guarantee of a job and a living wage.
Somehow I made it through that ordeal and was one of a dozen people eventually hired full time out of three hundred temps at the bargain rate of $11.00/hour. Good thing I didn’t have that massive heart attack sitting at my desk, until later. I’d have been shitcanned still in the hospital. Not that it would have mattered much, as a temp there was no healthcare insurance outside of some junk policy offered by the temp agency. Which you had to work at least 12 months to qualify for as I remember.
This was at the height of the recession. Which resulted in hilarious one-on-one meetings where genuinely enthusiastic but hopelessly outclassed high school and college drop outs in the role of group managers and team leaders tried to appear relevant coaching veteran engineers and execs in the role of subservient CSR’s, despite the fact that we could run rings around the younger “bosses”. There was one meeting where I tried to point out a well known glitch in statistic software used to predict contact volume with a full time employee in that department. If memory serves this poor guy had studied communications and drama, before dropping out of a local community college. To say he was lost when I tried to explain precisely what a bell curve was and why integrating functions of the family e to the negative X squared is problematic is saying it kindly. Good times.
After almost three years and earning the number one performer award last year out of hundreds of peers, I’ve worked my way up to the incredible rate of about $12.42/hour. Another few pennies and I’m capped out, meaning I can never earn more no matter how long I work there or how well I do.
What I wonder is why they used full-time regular employees at all, why pay me that extra buck forty-two an hour, given the many advantages of a second class workforce? No doubt there’s some convoluted corporate bullshit about team spirit and career minded people from on high, but how that pads earnings and buoys the stock is beyond me. Apparently it’s beyond more and more corporations, too.