Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sample Article #1

Contract Workers Struggle to Make Ends Meet


John Henri Allyn

With more and more jobs being outsourced to foreign countries and constant downsizing within corporate America, many workers find themselves unable to maintain permanent employment. Some of these individuals find their way into the rapidly growing market of contractors for hire. These temporary contractors otherwise known as “temps” seek to fill jobs ranging from office work to manual labor. While staffing agencies across the country work long hours to find positions for this growing market, the consistently of a solid income and schedule is anything but guaranteed.

I'm just happy to be working,” Jayne Orolowski, a temporary contract worker of six years told me, “This year I've been very lucky and have only had three weeks without work,” Orolowski is a fifty-three year old single mother working at a pharmaceutical company in Irvine California.

Every weekday morning she leaves at 6 a.m. traveling two hours by bus from Laguna Hills to Irvine. After working eight hours she travels back another two hours in the evening arriving home at 7:30 p.m.. The same trip driven by car would normally take 40 minutes each way. Jayne however cannot afford a car. Like many others she has turned to mass transit due to the rising costs associated with owning a vehicle such as gas and insurance.

I lost my job six years ago,” Orolowski said, “I worked there for twenty-eight years. Then one day out of the blue I got a notice that our company was cutting jobs and mine was one of them,”

Orolowski's story is shared by many across the America. According to a study put out by Belous Research Institute less than 22% of U.S. workers in 1988 were non permanent positions. In 2003 that figure jumped to nearly 35% of U.S. workers. This is due in part to a demand for labor needed only once or twice a year. These projects can be assigned to a set number of workers with relatively little experience and completed within a set time frame ranging from a week to a few months. When regular company employees have tasks they need to focus on, employers put in a call to a local job agency to find appropriate labor for the necessary projects.

There are some drawbacks to those who choose this lifestyle. One drawback concerns the low end pay rates for common positions such as mail room assistant or other general office related work. Experience is not necessarily the primary consideration when competing for a position with an over saturated market of other contractors that often undercut each other.

Often times a client will tell us to find them people willing to work for the cheapest rate possible.” Johnny Lundy, a staffing specialist for a company in Costa Mesa California told me, “Most positions no matter the industry will train individuals on the job. Previous experience, while helpful, will not necessarily get you a better hourly rate.”

Other drawbacks include the lack of benefits including health care, retirement programs, and sick time. Contractors are forced to fend for themselves with regard to these essential benefits. A contractor who is sick won't be paid that day. Often contractors live from paycheck to paycheck which makes putting money aside for retirement and other considerations nearly impossible.

Me and my son's health care are paid for by my parents,” Orolowski said. “There is no question about it, I would be dead in the water if it weren't for my parents. There is no way I would be able to afford my own place to live and have the money to be able to properly care for my son. I just hope my parents live until my son gets out of high school,”

Another potential drawback is the lack of job security. Temporary positions often give a time frame of weeks or months the job is expected to last. This figure is often sketchy at best. Companies can terminate a temporary contractor anytime during the contract with little or no explanation regardless of the expected time period of work.

I can recall plenty questionable terminations,” Lundy said, “But per our rules we are not allowed to demand an explanation. Some of our workers have been promised nine month contracts only to be let go within weeks due to no fault of their own. I feel bad for them but all we can do is try to find them another position.”

Reentering the permanent job market is a daunting task in todays job world. This is especially true for older workers such as Orolowski where even decades of experience and a good job record doesn't seem to turn potential employer heads like it would have two or three decades ago.

Most permanent jobs would rather have a younger worker at a starting rate than consider a higher rate for an older experienced person such as myself,” Orolowski said.

More seniors are having to work past sixty-five due to the lack of long term jobs available in todays job market. According to the senior trends association the number of employers who were at least 55 increased to 35.7% in 2003, up from 34.5% in 2002. This was especially true for those above 65 which up until a generation ago was considered the average retirement age.

Despite the struggles and numerous hazards, more demand in the temporary work market has led to more employees eager to supply to that demand. Cautious planning and an ability to roll with the punches will be required should you decide to make a permanent lifestyle out of the temporary work scene.


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