The 'stranger' in the workplace : a sociological analysis of the agency temporary worker
Recent labour market studies have focussed on the increasing importance of non-standard forms of employment. This study on agency temps aims to contribute to this body of literature, but proposes an alternative perspective. Focussing on the temp's particular employment relationship rather than on the approach of the secondary labour market or the currently fashionable 'flexibility debate', this thesis suggests that the temp's three-way employment relationship is a determinant of the temp's working situation. Labour law literature has shown that the temp's employment status is open to conjecture because of what has been called this 'ambiguous, legal relationship. Using this approach, this thesis suggests that the temp has two 'social' employers, who must be recognised as, important before categorising temps as either 'flexible' or part of the secondary labour market. Furthermore, the temp's situation is characterised by temporality and mobility which give rise to certain feelings of freedom. The temp's status as 'stranger' and the way in which this operates within the three-way employment relationship are therefore an important influence on the temp's experience of work. This thesis suggests that the, temp is a 'stranger'/outsider to the workplace. Temps occupy a position of mobility and temporality defined by their threeway employment relationship. Temps may therefore say that they feel 'free' because they have two social employers and they do not feel that they are employees of either. Temps may experience certain perceptions held by management and permanent co-workers about their ability to perform certain work tasks. Indeed, temps may find that the work they are given is boring and routine. This thesis argues that these conditions are influenced by the structure of the temps' three-way relationship within which temps are 'strangers'. It is not merely a case, then, that temps occupy a secondary labour market position, for example, but that this position must be recognised as including two nominal employers who may collude together in determining the temp's working situation.