By: Michael Romandel
In Toronto, one of the main ways that working class people find work when they find themselves out of a job and need to pay bills is through various temporary agencies. These agencies play the role of middlemen between corporations and workers. Corporations use them for a number of reasons, though they all add up to saving the corporations money. Workers hired through temporary agencies are often paid minimum wage, with the temporary agency making money off of each worker they supply to a company.
While it doesn’t immediately appear this way in any accounting books, what basically happens is that the temporary agency takes part of the money the worker would otherwise be paid for every hour of work. What is even worse about this is that this total amount is often still less than a ‘regular’ full-time employee of a company doing the same job makes per hour.
Javeed, a printing factory worker interviewed for this article, explained, “I’ve been working in this factory for eight months and still make minimum wage. The full-time packers make nearly double what I make, while machine operators make even more than that. I’m only working there as a temp so that I can get a job with the company, but it’s getting too frustrating. I have no idea how much money the temp. agency has been making off me, but i know they are making good money. I see the cars they drive there when I pick up my paycheques.”
These temporary agencies operate in different parts of the city, often on a particular ethnic, language or community basis, recruiting exploitable immigrants from all the various communities of Toronto so that companies can make an easy profit without having to worry about taking care of workers.
Sometimes, these temp. agencies attempt to take even more money from their workers by purposely not paying them for the hours they’ve worked and still refusing to pay even after a formal complaint has been made. A case of exactly this kind was brought to the attention of Basics several years ago in Etobicoke.
In this case, a worker named Mohammed was refused several days pay worth over $200 by his temp. agency after he finished working for them. This temp. agency particularly focused on recruiting workers from African backgrounds in the northwest part of the city and was controlled by one man out of a small office located in a strip mall.
However, Mohammed was able to get back his money after contacting the Solidarity Committee of the Industrial Workers of the World, who came out to his temp. bosses office with him and presented him with formal written and oral demands for the wages to be paid. This confrontation was enough to get this temp. agency to pay up.
As workers, many of us have no choice but to work for temporary agencies to pay the bills, though this doesn’t mean we should just accept their parasitical nature as natural or normal.
People should not profit off us by sitting in an office or even their own home and siphoning off money while we work in some of the most physically demanding and stressful jobs in the city, barely being able to afford to get to work each day. The same goes for the big corporations themselves and their executives and managers. All of these parasites make money off us each day and live luxurious lifestyles off the labour we provide for them, for which they pay us as few scraps as possible.