How many temporary workers can you hire?

For several years, the company maintained a relatively stable crew of maintenance employees. However, during the past year, thanks to innovative technology, a new business unit called Special Projects Section was formed.
By Raymond Dreyfack June 1, 1998

For several years, the company maintained a relatively stable crew of maintenance employees. However, during the past year, thanks to innovative technology, a new business unit called Special Projects Section was formed. The operation thrived, but because of market unpredictability it experienced workload highs and lows. To deal with this situation, temporaries were employed as needed with no objection from the union at the outset.

This approach worked without a hitch for a while. But as the Special Projects business continued to thrive and grow, Union Delegate Gerald Crouse awoke one day to the realization that what had started as a modest enterprise had mushroomed so rapidly that special projects production threatened to exceed standard production, and it was getting to the point where temporary workers would soon outnumber the regular crew.

Crouse complained to Maintenance Foreman Gary Marcus that bargaining unit employees were “getting the shaft.” He demanded that the balance be more fairly adjusted in favor of the permanent workers.

Marcus replied, “We don’t hire temporaries to do anyone out of work that is rightfully theirs. We hire them because we don’t know in advance how many people we’ll need and for how long. We try to assign bargaining unit employees to Special Projects when it’s feasible, but that doesn’t always work out. We have to have workers on hand when we need them, and we can’t afford to have people sitting on their hands when there’s no work to do.”

The explanation didn’t satisfy Crouse. “You’re in violation of the contract. We went along with the temps at the outset of this operation because it was relatively small, but it’s gotten out of hand. If things continue this way, we’ll have more temps on the payroll than regulars.”

Marcus nodded agreement. “I don’t know what to tell you, Jerry. I’ll take it up with the boss.”

Question : In the plant engineer’s shoes, what action would you take in response to the union’s complaint?

Nevin’s decision: Plant Engineer Alex Nevin told Marcus, “Crouse has a valid gripe. Neither the company nor the union anticipated early on how much growth the Special Project unit would enjoy. It’s not fair for the company to reap bonanza profits at the expense of its regular employees. We’ll have to curtail the number of temps we employ even if it’s costly to do so.”