In the current political campaign in Ontario, Canada, one of the candidates proposed that the number of temporary workers in any establishment should not exceed 25 percent of the total permanent work force. The candidate is unlikely to win, but what is the thinking behind this?
Jeff Nugent, managing director of Contingent Workforce solutions, says that there is still a perception that temp workers are somehow a second-class add-on to the “real” workforce. If they are second-class, a means of exploiting workers, then of course politicians will want to get involved. Yet when one actually looks at contingent workers one finds most are free agents by choice. They are often paid better than permanent staff, enjoy being removed from office politics and like the freedom of being, at least in part, their own boss.
For their part, many organizations hire contingent workers not because they are cheaper than permanent workers but because it is the best way to get the skills they need for a project. In these cases it is just a better match between the nature of the work and the nature of the available workforce. We have ended up in a fluid economy where people regularly change jobs. Contingent workers go from contract to contract, “permanent” workers go from job to job. Our thinking, or at least the thinking of some politicians, has not caught up with the reality.
So what do you think? Is it time to simply retire the concept of the permanent employee and the legislation that continues to enshrine the concept?