Friday, 21 October 2011

Head in the 'clouds', boot on the employer's foot

My union branch, NUJ London freelance, awards a monthly "Trireme Award - for the worst terms since I was last chained to the oars". It would be funny if low pay weren't so prevalent
Browsing the ES yesterday I found the nauseating "article" below. It is about how employers increasingly employ freelancers for very short periods, with all the onus of training and keeping skills updated falling on the freelancer. That is to say, in addition to employers not paying pensions, sick and holiday pay they now no longer even train their workers to use their systems. You take care of all that yourself.

As a freelance worker for many years, I increasingly recognise this "flexibility" for what it is: naked exploitation and the tendency to drive down the cost of labour at the expense of the worker. And with an army of unemployed people looking for work, the employer can now enjoy a field day!

A lot of flexible workers kid themselves that they have control over their own work. For the most part, however, for example in my trade, publishing, we don't have much more control than a docker before the abolition of the Lump, scrambling over each other's backs for a day's work.

I've emboldened the particularly irritating management speak in the Standard article in order to heighten the pleasure for jargon masochists among you.
New breed of flexible 'cloud' workers transforming recruitment

Rather than recruiting permanent staff, employers are increasingly tapping into an existing pool of contingent talent.

This "cloud" of flexible workers... around the core workforce, is already changing how we are recruited and how we work...

The need for "talent on demand" also means more of us will have to invest in our own upskilling if we want to be permanently employed on a temporary basis.

...says Jes Ladva, director of recruitment company Synarbor... "With so many organisations operating lean structures they need to bring in people who can hit the ground running. So they are asking recruitment companies to build a pipeline of talented individuals who can meet their exact needs....

"What we are increasingly seeing is that the temporary staff who are more job-ready are the ones who are often acquiring these skills themselves.

"The successful ones are the ones who want to upskill and understand the future needs of different clients."

Russell Beck, vice president of recruitment outsourcing business Carlisle Managed Solutions, ...says that being the right "fit" is also important.

"Companies in London are increasingly looking to adopt new ways of working and we are working with them to redefine what workforce flexibility, or the percentage of permanent to contingent labour, should look like to ensure talent is available on a 'Just in Time' basis," he says.

"...there is an increasing emphasis on identifying a candidate's cultural and behavioural characteristics and whether these are aligned to the company to maximise recruitment success."
They don't want much, do they?!


David Duff said...

I know how you missed me so I followed you over here to your new place.

First of all, you are a subject not a citizen, and it's no good moaning about it, that's just the way things are.

Second, there is an implication in what you write concerning the dreadful, tear-inducing plight of free-lance hacks that somehow you are entitled to good conditions in the job you choose to do. Of course, the fact is that you are not entitled to anything! And if you really don't like the terms and conditions then go and do something else.

Mrs Angry said...

If you do not like the sentiments expressed in Citizen Barnet's blog, Duff, why not feck off and go and find something more suited to your antediluvian world view?
Just a thought.

Mr Mustard said...

What Vicky, you are alleged not to be a Citizen.

Better stay out of the Subjects Advice Bureau then !

Vicki Morris aka Citizen Barnet said...

Hello, DD,

I don't understand your remarks about citizens/subjects. If they are cutting, it's passed me by, which is probably for the best.

On the other matter, I wonder what do you do for a living? Would you vouchsafe us that information? It might help us to argue on a more equal footing, since you know what I do.

You seem to think that throwing some kind of Blairite slur - sense of entitlement - at me settles something. But it really doesn't tell us anything!

In your worldview I am entitled, I presume, to go and try to get a higher-paying job (or are you some sort of feudalist who resents freedom of labour?). So the sort of moral distaste you feel towards someone who wants higher pay in one case and not the other doesn't seem to me to make sense.

I can't see why, rather than looking for a higher paid job, one should not trying to stay in the job that doesn't pay enough and argue with the boss about how much s/he should pay for you. And I don't think that has much to do with 'entitlement', or 'fairness', or any such thing but simply on two parties contesting to divide wealth.

Rates of pay tend to be conditioned mainly by two things:
- the cost of living
- the balance of class forces

An individual boss will tend to force wages down to subsistence - which I think even you might object to - although even they have to accept that they can't actually starve their workers.

But other bosses will not want wages to go too far down in general or workers won't be able to afford to buy their products.

There are also all sorts of cultural and social factors that come into play to keep pay from going too low. For example, ideas about how great the gap between rich and poor should be (how equal a society is); ideas about what a decent society looks like, with not too many beggars littering the streets, to state this argument at its more extreme.

The balance of class forces, ie, how strong workers are versus bosses, will help to determine how far bosses can push pay down. When bosses are strong relative to workers - as, in general, they are now - pay will fall. As it is doing.

(Of course, there is, actually, a sense in which 'entitlement' absolutely does obtain and that is that we have a minimum wage. It is illegal to pay workers less than that. Any worker is 'entitled' at least to that.)

Mrs Angry said...

well said, Citizen Barnet ... I note that Mr Duff, at the end of his own latest post, readily admits: "what a meandering load of old twaddle that was" ... there you go

David Duff said...

You are a subject because you live in a monarchy.

Wages are decided by employers who have to weigh the considerable costs of employing people today against any gain they might make from employing someone. Or to put it another way, will an employee add value/profit to the business. If the answer's 'no' then that's that!

You ask what my occupation was and I usually answer that question by saying that I was a jack of all trades and master of bugger all! However, for the last few years of my working life I was a proud member of that distinguished and honourable Brotherhood, the second-hand car trade . . . sorry, I didn't quite catch that! Oh, and I never employed anyone.

Mrs 'A', I trust you were wearing your full Nuclear-Biological-Chemical warfare suit when you set foot in the wasteground that is Duff & Nonsense, otherwise you might have caught something!

between-the-lines said...

"An individual boss will tend to force wages down to subsistence - which I think even you might object to - although even they have to accept that they can't actually starve their workers.

But other bosses will not want wages to go too far down in general or workers won't be able to afford to buy their products."

Well, this is where they are in a real bind, aren't they.

On the one hand they'd like to run the world as a plutonomy with a tiny number of people owning almost everything and the rest of us having virtually nothing.

On the other hand ...

... it doesn't work!

It didn't work in the 1920s to 30s Gilded Age, and it doesn't work now. All that happens is a massive demand crisis and the economy seizes up.

between-the-lines said...

Ooops, that link should be this one:

David Duff said...

Well it worked for Henry Ford:

"As owner of the Ford Motor Company, he became one of the richest and best-known people in the world. He is credited with "Fordism": mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers."

Mrs Angry said...

David Duff, the West Country's answer to Arfur Daley? Oh, please - let it be true ...

Yes, you can be sure that after i returned from your blog, I had a good scrub down with carbolic soap and dried off with a copy of Das Kapital.