Monday, January 28, 2008

Another Dirty Word

Last November I mentioned the Wal-Mart model of ensuring employee impotency through a heavy reliance on part-timers. These individuals can be brought into the workplace without the needless expense of benefits such as health insurance or pesky retirement plans. Sam Walton’s model has been pervasive in the American economy for decades and it is even taught in business schools as a way to enhance the bottom line.

As profitable as the use of part-timers might be, it does have a couple of drawbacks. For one thing, it increases the actual number of employees which means more time lost in training and management. More employees necessarily mean more hiring, firing, counseling, and paperwork. It is also likely that additional employees would impact the overall consistency and quality of the work.

So what is a ruthless employer to do: save money by using part-timers, or opt for things running smoother by using full-time employees? Fortunately a new paradigm has emerged, one that continues to screw employees out of a fair living while letting the corporations use them on a full-time basis. These new victims of corporate greed are called permalancers.

permalancer (noun) : an employee who works full-time or nearly full-time hours for a firm without a traditional benefit package (such as medical insurance) and who is retained on a contract basis—from the combination of the words “permanent” and “freelancer."

That’s right, permanent freelancers! Two people in a company may do the same job, but one was hired before the concept of permalancers came about and works for regular pay and benefits. The other person, a contracted employee, works the same hours at the same job, but receives no benefits and can be terminated at any time without cause. What could be fairer than that? Clearly America’s largest employers have stumbled upon their ultimate wet dream!

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