With temp work becoming permanent, reform is needed

Companies must end their reliance on temporary employees.

by Ronald Dixon

I am no longer shocked to read reports of employers professionally and economically abusing their workers. One of the ways that many businesses do this is by relying upon “perma-temp” positions, employment opportunities that are billed as temporary but are, effectively, long-term contracts.

Recently, Nissan has taken advantage of desperate, jobless workers. A substantial portion of the company’s workforce is made up of perma-temps; individuals who make $15 per hour and receive few benefits. This is opposed to the full-time, permanent and union-backed employees who are paid $25 per hour, receive full union benefits and have the peace of mind that accompanies a stable agreement with their employer.

Justin Saia, Nissan’s manager of corporate communications in North America, attempted to justify the pay gap between perma-temps and non-contract workers by claiming that the former were “unskilled” employees who came to the company during the recession. There are two problems with this argument, though.

First, considering the fact that these supposedly unskilled workers are performing the same exact jobs as those who are not perma-temps, how are they not skilled? If two people perform the same job, then it’s only reasonable to conclude that they have similar skills in this field. One could claim that, because permatemps are less experienced, they deserve to be paid less. This argument is fine, but the discrepancies between the two groups are so large that different degrees of experience cannot justify the gap.

The other problem with Saia’s argument is the simple fact that it is 2015. If employees were hired through a temporary contract during the recession, then why have they not since been elevated to the status of a full employee?

The reason, of course, is to save Nissan money at the expense of its workers.

The only way to prevent companies from abusing temporary workers is to enact new laws that would strictly regulate the terms of temporary contracts. I could imagine, for example, a law that requires businesses to elevate these workers to full employees after three months. Additionally, it could prevent companies from simply firing and re-hiring people under temporary agreements.

The law could also enact strict penalties for companies that abuse these new restrictions. The punishments would have to be severe enough to lower the incentive for companies to even try to exploit needy, unemployed workers in the first place.

Finally, if manufacturing companies attempted to export their jobs to avoid these potential rules, then their overseas profits would be penalized so staunchly that the mere thought of shipping jobs to China would never materialize in corporate boardrooms.

These abuses need to end. Considering the large gains that have gone to the rich over the last few years, they could easily afford to shred perma-temp contracts and upgrade their workers to full-time status.