Conclusions

The different reports show clearly that we will not be able to derive a radical and generalising political line from the sheer precariousness of the jobs, from the legal contract relations of temp work. The possibilities and material starting-points for initiatives vary, particularly if we take into account that unlike in the examples above, a lot of the temp work is not done in major companies or industrial surroundings. Very interesting front lines could appear where, due to regional or industrial concentration, (temp) workers come together in a tangible context of common experiences which goes beyond company boundaries. In the Ruhr area this could be the case, e.g. at Gate Gourmet and at GM there were temps who had common experiences with working at Nokia, at GM some temps previously worked in various automobile suppliers.

It would also be important to analyse the political potentials of the fact that hundreds of foreign student-workers are exploited at Nokia in Bochum while at the same time there are various activities and a long occupation at the university in Bochum, against fees and the increasing pressure on students. Contrary to common opinion, it is possible (for people between aged 20 to 45) to get a job in the core industries within a short period of time, but for wages that motivate half the people to leave the job after a similarly short period. This might be an important background situation for possible initiatives. Another parallel between the above examples is the temp agencies using union negotiated collective contracts to justify the low wages. In all four industrial companies the temps are lured with the 'promise' of a long-term stay as temporary workers, the possibility of getting a permanent contract after a certain probation time was never even mentioned.

At Nokia it was clear that the management is able to extend the number of temp workers to over one thousand so that half of the staff in the production department are not really attached to the company. All this in a world-market factory for mobile phones which is situated less than an hours drive away from BenQ, another big mobile phone plant where workers gave a good example of how to loose a struggle by not even starting it. At GM the precarious experiences of the temps mix with the experiences of a combative industrial stronghold under attack. Thanks to the still effective resistance of the permanent workers, temporary work is still a minor factor there, but highly concentrated, particularly in the pre-assembling departments and in logistics.

One of the other tragic results of the long strike at Gate Gourmet is the fact that temp work, which was one of the main levers to undermine and finally break the strike, is now used in order to restructure the work-organisation. The main weakness of the strike was, that it was neither able to prevent scabbing nor was it able to build a bridge to the temps which would have allowed them to join the dispute. The failed little action at GM shows that at least during an embryonic stage of struggle, the legal right of the bosses to kick people out from one minute to the other poses a serious problem. The example of the major construction project made clear that 'precarious conditions' and low wages are not only a concern for temp workers, young folks or the creative self employed, but became part of daily life experience for the family-father-type handicraft-worker, as well. Let's see who moves first.

[prol-position news #8 | 4/2007] www.prol-position.net