Reciprocal Frustrations: The Relationship between New Zealand Employers, Temporary Staffing Agencies and Clerical Temporary Workers

By Jocelyn Handy and Doreen Davy.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Organizational Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This research explored the triangular working relationship between employers, temporary staffing agencies, and clerical temporary workers. The study used a qualitative approach to investigate the interdependent relationship between these three groups within the context of the Auckland labour market. Findings are based on in-depth interviews with ten employer representatives, ten employment agency consultants, and twenty female agency clerical workers. Interviews with the employer representatives revealed that employers wanted agencies to facilitate swift and unproblematic access to a reliable, hardworking, and disposable workforce with similar skills and commitment to permanent employees. Agencies were often unable to meet these requirements, and employers, therefore, developed various strategies designed to limit their dependency on agencies. According to agent respondents, an oversupply of agencies complicated their relationships with both clients and temporary workers and made it increasingly difficult for them to meet the expectations of either party. Competition between agencies meant that employers often negotiated lower fees for hiring temporary staff. This limited agencies’ ability to attract good quality temporary staff by offering higher wages or improved working conditions. Temporary worker respondents described social alienation, poor pay and benefits, and monotonous assignments as commonplace. In consequence, most workers had limited commitment to employers or agencies and would have preferred permanent employment. This research has demonstrated that labour market conditions and the structural contradictions of temporary work strongly influenced the activities of each group. The aims, expectations, and behaviours of the three sets of participants were often mutually incompatible, which limited the manoeuvrability of each group. This created outcomes that were often unintended, and frequently suboptimal, for all three parties.

Keywords: Temporary Work, Employment Agencies, Qualitative Research

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Organizational Studies, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.1-9. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 390.072KB).

Dr. Jocelyn Handy

Senior Lecturer, School of Psychology, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Dr. Handy is a senior lecturer in the School of Psychology at Massey University, New Zealand. She is interested in qualitative research in organisational issues. She is currently researching film production workers’ experiences of the New Zealand film industry.

Doreen Davy

Self Employed Therapist, New Zealand

Doreen Davy is currently working as a self-employed therapist and career counsellor based in Auckland.