Thursday, December 15, 2011

Impact of precarity on standard workers

I finally worked my way down to a paper I snagged this summer entitled “The hidden costs of contingency: Employers’ use of contingent workers and standard employees' outcomes”. This paper considers the impact of increasing employment precarity on workers in traditional jobs in the US by examining standard workers’ perceived job security, subjective attachment to their workplaces, earnings, and relationships with managers and coworkers.

The upshot is this:
There is strong evidence that employers' use of temporary workers is negatively associated with standard employees' perceived job security, subjective workplace attachment, and relationships with managers and co-workers. These negative relationships are found even after controlling for a large set of organizational, occupational, and individual variables. (p. 35)

While only statistically significant in the model predicting relationships with coworkers, the association between the use of on-call workers and standard employees‘ outcomes is positive across nearly all outcomes. This may mean that on-call workers serve as an institutionalized buffer within workplaces, signaling to standard employees that management is creating organizational slack to protect standard employees from market fluctuations. (pp. 35-36)

These results are important because they confirm the broadly held belief that the presence of a secondary labour force in a workplace can have unexpected and negative outcomes on core employees. But they also suggest that the manner in which an employer employs a peripheral labour force can play a mediating roll—using on-call workers may be a better option than temporary workers.

-- Bob Barnetson

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