Friday, January 26, 2018

Part Time Life is the New Normal

A recent article from the Wall Street Journal reveals that the world’s biggest employers no longer sell things but rent workers. What this means really is that in the last two decades—basically my entire working life—the traditional employers and business hand over their tasks to “non-employees,” considered mere “talents” or “service providers” who are given lower pay and receive fewer or no benefits. 

According to the article by Lauren Weber: “For employers, dispatching work to outside companies saves money and lets them access skills they need without adding to their headcount. Workers in jobs that have gone to outsourcers, though, can feel moved around like chess pieces, either displaced entirely or re-badged as employees of a service provider, sometimes with fewer benefits and lower pay. A growing body of economic research suggests that outsourcing is a significant factor fueling the rise of income inequality in the past decade.”

This has happened in both industries I’ve worked in, even in government.

You’re considered lucky if you gain a contract that’s renewable every year, still subject for approval, and instead of a salary you are given what is considered “retainer’s fees.” If the project you’re working on does not make it to the finish line and or is shelved for some reason or another, then you would only get paid for that pilot and a “development fee” for everything else you worked for in the last year and a half. If the project gets aired, then you hope it runs for as long as it can. Otherwise, you get only the minimum of and get paid for 13-16 weeks. 

Then back to development hell. It’s possible that you or your group of creatives don’t get another project, in which case you are floating and hoping to get a slot in another team, which is harder because there are a lot of people who do not have active projects and hoping to get that “extra” revolving, free for all slot. It's feast or famine, boom or bust. This is mainly the reason why I decided to leave and go back to that other industry. 

Where I work now, the practice is that the bulk of the force is comprised of part-timers. Like in my current office, there are less than ten full timers (FTF) and over a dozen or so part-timers (PTF). A PTF carries the same maximum work load as an FTF, but the rates are half of what a full timer gets, no benefits and no healthcare— although you have the option to get it as part of the collective and pay for it yourself as a salary deductible over 3 months or so. 

If circumstances dictate that less part-timers are needed, then we get less load. Current circumstances in this industry dictate that there will be less load in the next 3-4 years or until 2021-22, with this year and 2019 being the hardest hit. In my other previous non-employer (the College of Rich Kids, aka Cork), you don’t even get to know if you’ll get a workload until the very first day of work. So if you’ve been counting on that and get nothing, well good luck. It’s for this reason that a lof of part-timers work at more than one job—sometimes as many as three or four. 

My current non-employer manages things a bit differently. CNE makes sure that all the PTFs will have work, even at a reduced load. Most of the PTFs are farmed off to another area of the industry, which is not what we're trained for, but gives us work that will sustain us through these lean years

You are not an employee, and who you work for is not your employer. Yet you do regular time, you follow their rules. Everywhere in the world, this is the game now. The part time outsourced life is the new normal. 

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