Precarious Work and the Failure of “Human Resource Management”

The Globe and Mail newspaper recently ran a very thoughtful article examining the growth of precarious work in Canada – people holding multiple part-time or temporary jobs with irregular scheduling. Not surprisingly, this form of employment is very attractive for employers, because they can quickly adjust the size of their workforce as needed. But it’s incredibly difficult for the employees, who usually take these jobs out of necessity, not by choice. Many of them have difficulty getting enough paid hours of work to make a living, and they also have to struggle to manage varying work schedules that can change with very little notice.

In the article, economist Jim Stanford is quoted as saying, “If you’re treating people like a disposable input, you’re not going to elicit a lot of loyalty and creativity.” This comment brought to my mind another workplace problem that, in my opinion, is part of the reason for increasingly poor treatment of workers: the failure of “human resource management” to combat the use of exploitative forms of work. When I say “failure”, I don’t mean (more…)