Friday, April 3, 2015

I Never Thought Flexible Would Become a Dirty Word

A letter from today's Star Tribune:

Why aren’t people lining up to fill jobs? Flextime may be a culprit

While the April 1 article about high job vacancies blames low pay, there is another huge reason why so many of these positions are not sought after — the abomination known as flexible scheduling. In essence, the positions require that the employee work entirely at the whim of management. Typically, a flextime contract specifies things like this:
  • You will be guaranteed a minimum of eight hours’ work per week but must be prepared to work up to 32.
  • If you are scheduled but are not needed, you will be called and told to stay home, unpaid.
  • If you come in to work at a scheduled time and are not needed, you will be sent home early and paid for the hours actually worked.
  • Your work times can vary by length and time frame. (For example, you may be scheduled to work two hours in the morning one day, then six hours in the evening the next and so on).
  • If the employer is short-staffed and you are already at work, you will be required to stay extra, up to 16 hours continuously. If you refuse to stay more than twice, you will be fired.
  • If the employer is short-staffed at any time, you will be called and required to come in to work. If you refuse more than twice, you will be fired.
  • You can be fired at any time without prior notice for any reason or no reason at all.
If employers wonder why no one is leaping to work for them, they should ask themselves if they would work like this. Somehow, I seriously doubt it.

Sharon L. Casey, St. Paul
Those are some crazy rules. "Flexible" is one of those words that seems like a universal good, but when I think of flexible hours at a job, I think it means the employee has some leeway --  not this bizarro-world described by Sharon Casey. 

All of us who are not affected by this kind of change in employment practices need to remember that things today are not as they were 30 years ago. It's similar to the way the college debt crisis has arisen:
  • tuition, room, and board are disproportionately more expensive
  • the minimum wage is worth much less
  • out-right financial aid has dried up in favor of unsubsidized loans 
College was a lot easier to afford 35 years ago, believe me. Similarly, the idea that people should just "go get a job" and all their problems will be solved misses these major changes in the employer-employee compact. This is one of the key attributes of the precariat. You can't arrange child care, go to school, or have any kind of life with a schedule that varies that much, and note that it's clearly nowhere near full-time, either, so you also can't pay your bills.

It's all part of the "race to the bottom" approach to running a country that has been in force since the Reagan Revolution.

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