Thursday, August 08, 2002

"As a dog returneth..."

I'm starting a new booking on Monday. An... ongoing booking. For me, an Ongoing Booking is like the Holy Grail. I call them permatemp jobs: technically temporary, but the boss is likely to need you for the foreseeable future and can't be bothered to recruit someone new. The cherry on the cake is that I know the client, a small but thriving jewellery importer in need of packers. I spent most of last summer with them and they're pretty cool. My agency told me that they asked for me by name, would you believe.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking: Here's a company that wants somebody to stuff toerings in boxes all day, a job which has no requirements beyond a pair of opposable thumbs, and yet they ask for a specific person? If you're thinking that, then you'd suck at doing this job. First off: they need someone who won't assume that "boring" is the same as "unimportant." Second off: They need someone who understands that if you're on a production line, 9:00 am means 9:00 am and not any old time before lunch. Third off: they need someone who isn't stupid enough to try and half-inch the product.

I mean. Seriously.

Here's a simple maths quiz: you're packing cheap little mass-produced silver earring sets that cost about 3p a pair wholesale. You get paid £5 an hour. Given that you will be dismissed without references and very probably arrested if you try to nick anything, how is it ever going to be worth trying to smuggle a couple of earrings past the guy with the metal-detector? Choose one of the following:

A) It's not worth it, stupid. Now pass me another roll of barcode stickers.
b) I don't like this job much, but I'd rather just quit and look for something else than get fired over a few penn'orth of costume jewellery.
?%!) mE Am BizZarrO woRLd rONniE bIgGS! Me aM eAT pAinT! sEll sHIny eARiNgs! BuY moRe PaInT! paINt gOooOd!

So having established that I can do this look-ma-no-brains job without screwing it up, why doesn't the client just cut out the middleman and hire me directly, on a casual basis? Why go through the agency?

Because of the introduction fee. The introduction fee is a sum of money that the client is contractually obliged to pay the agency if they hire someone who's been sent to them by that agency, within a set amount of time (usually 2-3 years). The terms vary between agencies but generally a client is looking at some multiple of the temp's hourly rate. In many cases the minimum fee starts at around £1000 (even for opposable-thumboids like moi). One agency I worked for charged £2000, minimum. This fee means that no matter how hard you work for a client, they'll probably never hire you as a permanent member of staff.

At present, I don't care-- I'm not stopping here anyway, so this deal suits me just fine. When I first moved to London it was different; like many others I wanted nothing more than a permanent job. The phrase "good chance of going perm!" is dangled in front of temps' noses all the time. It's the mechanical hare that they chase after, the inducement to put up with all manner of lousy conditions and rotten behaviour. I'm here to tell you that nine times out of eight, "good chance of going perm!" is a great big lie. Get in early, leave late, take work home, work a twelve hour day for eight hour's pay, none of that matters. If your client can find someone to do what they think you do without coughing up an extra £1000, then they'll hire that person, not you. End of story.

Understand: I'm not saying all this like it's the worst thing that could ever happen to a person. I'm just saying. That's all.

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