169 Migrants and Staffing Agencies in the European Union

Wednesday, June 26, 2013: 4:00 PM-5:45 PM
C3.23 (Oudemanhuispoort)
Panel organised by Gabriella Alberti (Leeds University) and Sébastien Chauvin (University of Amsterdam)

Since the European Union’s Enlargement in 2004 and the gradual opening of Member States’ labour markets to the new migration flows, the question of labour mobility and its implications for workers’ conditions has become an increasingly central issue. There has been relatively little research on the movement and regulation of migration in relation to the role played by employment and temporary staffing agencies in recruiting new migrants locally and across the border, as well as their impact on the wider labour market. Especially in low-paid service sectors, employers appear to rely increasingly on staffing agencies that are specialised in migrant workers. This may appear as a form of “subcontracting by stealth” aiming at reducing costs and externalising HRM functions. Employers may also want to use agencies as an ‘insurance’ against illegality in the case of undocumented migrants.

The scope of this panel is to explore the relationship between temporary employment agencies and labour migration in the context of the EU. While temporary staffing agencies can be considered a “growing industry” per se, in Europe as well as globally (Euro-CIETT 2012), research on the strategies and practices endorsed by TSAs in the context of a flexible labour market and in relation to migration more specifically needs to be further developed. The panel gathers new empirical work and different theorisations across disciplines with the aims of:

1)     Unpacking the notions of deregulation/informalisation of employment relations and the precarisation of work by focusing on the function of temporary recruitment agencies in managing migrant workers

2)     Investigating the role and function of TSAs in managing documented and undocumented migrants, including the social construction of flexible migrants across borders by agencies operating both locally and transnationally

3)     Enhancing our understanding of these processes at the intersection of migration and labour regimes in Europe and internationally: what is the relationship between labour market and migration policies and how do they combine to create/reinforce or weaken the expansion of agency and temporary employment? At what geographical scale and under what institutional forms do these different regimes operate?

4)     Discussing different industry-case studies about the impact of these forms of management on pay levels and working conditions for migrant and non-migrant workers: what is exactly happening in the outsourcing of labour recruitment and/or employment and who is exactly gaining in terms of pay percentage and other costs related to the recruitment, retention and renewal of the labour force? What consequences does this labour mobilisation regime have on social and hierarchical relations involving migrant temp workers at client companies?

5)     Is there a scope for trade unions and other industrial relations or non-union civic actors to intervene and engage agency workers in the battle for better working conditions? What terrains do migration and agency work furnish for social and industry actors to intervene in regulatory terms? How else can their intervention be thought beyond regulation and cooperation with state and employers, i.e. at the community level?

Bridget Anderson
Johannes (Jan) Cremers
The political economy of recruitment agencies and migrant workers in Europe and beyond
Robert MacKenzie, Leeds University Business School; Chris Forde, Leeds University Business School; Zyama Ciupijus, University of Oxford; Gabriella Alberti, Leeds University Business School
Temporariness and precarity in London’s hotels
Gabriella Alberti, Leeds University Business School
Too Precarious for Legality? Undocumented migrants and temporary staffing agencies in France and the United States
Anne Bory, University of Lille; Sebastien Chauvin, University of Amsterdam; Nicolas Jounin, Université Paris 8
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