Thursday, 17 June 2010

Flexible working, my eye

Temporary and its pretentious cousin freelance work is crap, really. It's supposed to be all about controlling what you do and having more flexibility, but what happens in practice is you're so desperate for work most of the time you'll do practically anything a client wants you to do when they want you to do it.

And that's the whole point of it. Companies like to use temps and freelances because they don't have to give us holiday or sick pay, we have few rights and even fewer that are enforceable. In some industries, the trade unions don't pay enough attention to organising temps or freelances - yes, it's very hard to do, but it can be done, and if the unions showed willing perhaps it would seep into temporary workers' consciousness that unions are relevant to them.

Anyway, I'm just coming to the end of an enjoyable freelance stint with a regular client. But I can't help recognising many of the lines in this song as true. It's from Pete the Temp, a comedy act and a very competent musician, who I saw at a gig the other day. I'm infringing his copyright, by reproducing some of his words, but it should get him some publicity so I hope he'll forgive me.

The temp song

I wasn't invited to the work party.
No one makes conversation or offers me tea.
I used to have a name, now I'm...
The temp.
"Get the temp to do it," I heard someone say.
Now I'm filing in the storeroom on my own every day.
I'm as disposable as a paperclip, it's true.
I'm a temporary worker...
I'm a temporary worker...
I've got three degrees and a PhD
But I'm a temporary worker.

I just want a job with some dignity,
But I'm a temporary worker.
No medical insurance policy.
I'm a temporary worker
Free me from this time-sheet tyranny.
I'm a temporary worker.
This placement was supposed to last for just three weeks,
Instead I've ended up here for 17 years.
I'm the most senior worker here,
But they won't promote me, oh, no.
One day I left my phone to charge where my boss could see,
He sacked me for stealing electricity.
Now I'm a jobless, skill-less temp,
And I've lost my time sheet...

Pete the Temp
And the rest and more is here on Pete the Temp's Myspace site.

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