Conference 26th June 2017: Temp agencies and the politics of work

Over the past three years, the Work Research Institute at the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied sciences has been responsible for the research project entitled The impact of temporary work agencies on the politics of work, financed by the Research Council of Norway’s welfare, work and migration program. The other participating institutions include the University of Oslo, Mid Sweden University, Norwegian Institute of Urban and Regional Research and the Baltic Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Riga.

The main goals for the project have been to analyze how the emergence of the temporary agency work industry has influenced and been influenced by economic globalization, international and national regulatory changes, new flows of migrations and industrial relations.

This conference wraps up three years of research and gives us an opportunity to address a number of questions relating to temporary agency work, including:

  1. How has the emergence of labour intermediaries such as temporary work agencies influenced the idea and norm of the standard employment relationship?
  2. What happens to workplace dynamics and workplace power relationships in workplaces with a high degree of labour hire?
  3. What is the role of temporary work agencies in terms of facilitating labour migration? And what are major differences in this kind of facilitation according to type of workers (high skill/low skill) and the geographies of labour flows?
  4. What characterizes worker strategies for working through a temporary work agency? Case studies from the health sector and warehouse/logistics sector.

The conference is free of charge and open to all – please register here

Tentative Program

0845-0915 – Coffee and registration

0915-0930 – Welcome and introduction
Project manager and researcher at the Work Research Institute (HiOA), Anders Underthun

0930-1015 – Changes in the standard employment relationship in North America and Europe – major debates and challenges related to labour intermediaries
Professor Leah Vosko, York University, Toronto

1015-1045: The standard employment relationship in Norway 1945-2000: Responses and strategies by unions and employers
PhD Fellow Per Bonde Hansen, Work Research Institute (HiOA) 

1045-1100- Break

1100-1120 – The position of temporary work agencies in the Norwegian economy
Professor David Jordhus-Lier, University of Oslo

 1120-1140 – Workplace dynamics in the warehouse industry – commitment and power positions among permanent employees and agency workers
Docent Gunilla Olofsdotter, Mid Sweden University, Sweden

1140-1200 – The facilitation of labour migration through temporary work agencies: The example of Latvia to Norway.
Researcher Oksana Zabko, Baltic Institute of Social Sciences, Latvia

1200-1230 LUNCH

1230-1250 Worker strategies among Swedish nurses that work in Norway through temporary work agencies.
Professor Hege M. Knutsen and Maiken Bjerga Kiil, University of Oslo

1250-1310 Workplace dynamics in the Norwegian construction industry: The impact of labour hire.
PhD-fellow Hedda Haakestad, SPS, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences

1310-1330 Renewed union strategies as a response to the emergence of labour intermediaries – a comparison of public sector unions and civil aviation unions.
Guest researcher Dr. Darragh Golden, Work Research Institute,  HiOA

1330-1500  Debate (in Norwegian): Hva er bemanningsbransjens posisjon i norsk arbeidsliv i dagen, sett i lys av den økonomiske situasjonen og endringer i reguleringen av midlertidig arbeid? Hva er fordeler og ulemper for arbeidstakere som jobber gjennom bemanningsbyrå?

The conference is free of charge and open to all – please register here


Contested growth: The Development of Norway’s Temporary Staffing Industry

The aim of this article, written by David Jordhus-Lier, Neil M. Coe and Sindre Thon Bråten, is to understand the development of the temporary staffing industry in Norway since the deregulation in 2000 when the ban on hiring-out of labour and private mediation of labour was lifted. According to the authors, the activities of the staffing firms that constitute a national industry can only be understood in the context of wider contested processes of market-making involving multiple actors. The industry itself is one such actor, proactively lobbying for regulatory change through the national trade association. But in young and strictly regulated markets, the national state and the national employer and union federations remain the key players. It is also argued that the nature of national labour laws, and struggles thereon, are defining characteristics which set the Norwegian market apart from the neighbouring Swedish staffing market.

New Article: “The temporary agency directive: liberalising or like treatment?”

Ann Cecilie Bergene and Keith Ewing raise this question in their article in Søkelys på arbeidslivet. They discuss the historical and regulatory background and possible consequences for the implementation of EU Directive on Temporary agency work (2008/104/EC). The discussion is based on a two-pronged process involving: (1) a weakening of the social security net and (2) the increasing precarity of workers. Bergene and Ewing draw on experiences from the UK. While the Treaty of Versailles established the fundamental principle «labour is not a commodity», this has been modified to the extent of being abandoned by the implementation in 2013 of the directive legitimising the marketisation of employment relations, they argue.

Bergene and Ewings article have received attention from Torstein Nesheim and Birthe Eriksen. According to Nesheim and Eriksen the assertion that the directive have legitimized the marketization of employment relations does, when looking at legislation, not apply for the Norwegian context. In short, Bergene replies that emphasis on legislation is narrow and threatens to overshadow important changes in perceptions as well as in the economy.

A new article argues that migration has increased Swedish wages for nurses: “Agency by exit: Swedish nurses and the “Not below 24,000” movement”

In the article, Maiken Bjerga Kiil and Hege Merete Knutsen explores how agency is conditioned by structures and context that constrain and enable successful action. They find that individual acts of coping may enable and empower more collective actions of reworking and resistance. Kiil and Knutsens arguments are based on a case study of the “Not below 24,000” movement among nurse students and newly graduated nurses for acceptable entry wages in Sweden. The movement has succeeded in raising the entry wage for a number of newly graduated nurses. Individual agency by frustrated nurses has created a labour market with shortages of nurses in Sweden where new graduates are in high demand. Using collective agency the movement has exploited the situation and acquired power in several ways. Among the data material is 18 in-depth interviews with Swedish contract nurses in Norway; interviews and information in writing from managers in four Norwegian health enterprises and hospitals; and interviews in two temporary work agencies.

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