Musings Work & Career

The Carnage

Written by Jennifer Nini

Photo by Orin Zebest

Yesterday I witnessed some of my work friends get fired. They were on contract. Temp staff. Like me. And they were dispensable. Some had been there five months. Others only three.

They knew that they were on a temp assignment only. That the contract was not a permanent position. They also knew that there were limited permanent positions available for the right temp to transition to being a permanent employee. Each and every one of those people received an application for a permanent position within the company. Each and every person completed the required medical exams. Filled out police checks.

But all of them failed to pass for some reason or other. And yesterday afternoon, in the middle of taking a customers call, I saw them in tears, hugging those they befriended (I managed to squeeze a hug and an “I’ll call you later”) as they were escorted out of the building.

As far as I knew, there were no issues in their performance, productivity or attendance. And although we knew we were temps and on contract work, we thought that we would miraculously sail by unaffected, get treated like permanent staff and get paid a higher hourly rate.

And we look at it as though it was callous and that it could have been prevented. But you know what? That’s business. And I doubt that the HR department made the decisions without consultation from the relevant managers in the areas. I’m not sure if the floor supervisors knew, but if they did, I wouldn’t be surprised.

I was a supervisor in an organisation once upon a time too and I remember how it felt to be worked like a puppet. You’re in the middle, trying to keep your staff happy, keep them motivated. But you also get privy to the changes in the business before they happen. Like insider trading. You have the knowledge before its affected the masses.

Now I’m not saying that its wrong to end a contract of a temp staff member. After all, we knew at some point this would happen and as I said earlier, that’s business. It’s just a shame that it happened in that way. Out of the blue, unexpected, with little time for the parties involved to prepare. And of course the usual human emotions come in to play – shock, anger and sadness.

And although we can’t change what happened, we as a people can look at it in a different perspective. I for one don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think it’s a blessing in disguise and I’m sure that this fiasco will help them to find a job that they’re really passionate about and a company more aligned with their values. And that’s not such a bad lesson to learn.

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About the author

Jennifer Nini

Jennifer Nini is a writer, activist and the founding editor of Eco Warrior Princess. In 2010, after studying Fashion Business, she launched Eco Warrior Princess to explore her interests in fashion, politics, social justice and sustainability. Jennifer is also the founder of The Social Copywriter, a digital agency harnessing the power of copywriting and content marketing to help mindful businesses reach more people. When she’s not perfecting a sentence or coaching business clients, you will find her at her certified organic farm reconnecting with nature.


  • Sorry Jen we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

    I’ve been there for 12 months and seen the way they do this, each and every time. Don’t tell one person that they are accepting limited permanent staff as they are being walked out, all the while they are interviewing a new bunch of staff and funny enough they are going straight onto permanent I believe. Why send off those you have just spent thousands of dollars on training, encouraging to apply for further roles within the organization and then dump them in it.

    It doesn’t make any sense at all, although I guess I am now over thinking it and am wondering if they all came from the same agency? What are the agency fees for a organization taking on temp to perm staff, pretty sure there is a fee involved, maybe one the organization didn’t want to pay for so many. I was with a different agency, the other person from my group was for the same agency as me, oops where are the other 8-9 people that started with us, they were with different agencies than me. Starts to make me think.

    The do have the right to dismiss anyone they want, after all they are in charge, but to put peoples hopes up that they will be there for as long as they like and then this. It just leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

    • Hi Sue, yes I agree with you about getting people’s hopes up – I think that that was probably the main issue about the whole thing – about having this whole issue come up out of nowhere and then blindside so many people.

      I think that perhaps the team leaders and the recruitment agencies have to be very clear that becoming perm is not a guaranteed, even after good service, attendance, productivity and positive feedback from customers.

      I’m not sure about the fees involved as each recruitment agency is different but there may have been an agreement with the contract hourly rates and than a temp-to-perm placement if those same temps are placed as permanent staff.

      It’s a learning lesson about being a temp – and maybe for the organisation to look at how they portray the reality of the temp-to-perm process, but unfortunately I’ve seen this time and again. And to be honest, the one attractive thing that businesses like about hiring temps, is that when they do terminate, it’s written in the contract, and there is nothing the temps can do about it.

      I am an advocate of business change and having openness within the workplace – that way, it’s easy to understand from all parties involved and from the staff looking in. Unfortunately, that may be a pipe dream and so I would settle as looking at this from a positive perspective and learning a good lesson from it.

      • I remember Jen when I was given paperwork to complete, I was with the company for 3 months, they made us perm after 8 months but we had to fill in the paperwork because they couldn’t keep us temps forever, we were told if we didn’t fill it in we would have to leave because they needed to transition us to perm.

        Its just a great pity they way they eventually do it. I know that they could leave it to the agency to advise the staff and possibly that could be a better option for less disruption to the work place but the team leaders feel better about doing it themselves although it puts them through hell doing it.

        I wish I was able to come to terms with why, so that when it happens again and it will I’m sure very soon when the next lot of paperwork goes out, that I’m not so shocked even when I know its coming.

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