Thursday, December 13, 2007

Crisis of the transient workforce deepens

Corporations have been on the offensive against workers rights for years now. One key example is in the United States the incredible shift over the past 25 years from full-time, union jobs being dominant, to the current scenario of a transient workforce, whereby most workers are contractors with transient status.

This tactic has been very common throughout the history of capitalism (e.g. Bracero Program), but the current period is unique insofar as the practice cuts across all categories of workers including high-paying jobs such as computer programmers, and it is wide spread, being the dominant form of wage labor.

HR gurus and others have catchy phrases attached to the theory of the transient workforce, such as "right to work", "free agency" and "continuous rightsizing."

Workers, on the other hand, know its wrong, and they call it like they see it:
Scores of workers from MTV Networks walked off the job yesterday afternoon, filling the sidewalk outside the headquarters of its corporate parent, Viacom, to protest recent changes in benefits.

Freelance workers from MTV Networks outside the headquarters of the company’s corporate parent, Viacom, on Monday.

The walkout highlighted the concerns of a category of workers who are sometimes called permalancers: permanent freelancers who work like full-time employees but do not receive the same benefits.

Waving signs that read “Shame on Viacom,” the workers, most of them in their 20s, demanded that MTV Networks reverse a plan to reduce health and dental benefits for freelancers beginning Jan. 1.

In a statement, MTV Networks noted that its benefits program for full-time employees had also undergone changes, and it emphasized that the plan for freelancers was still highly competitive within the industry. Many freelancers receive no corporate benefits.

But some of the protesters asserted that corporations were competing to see which could provide the most mediocre health care coverage. Matthew Yonda, who works at Nickelodeon, held a sign that labeled the network “Sick-elodeon.”

“I’ve worked here every day for three years — I’m not a freelancer,” Mr. Yonda said. “They just call us freelancers in order to bar us from getting the same benefits as employees.”

Stetler, Brian. Freelancers walk out at MTV Networks. 11-Dec-2007.

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