Unions and Temporary Help Agency Employment

Posted: 3 Oct 2012

See all articles by Timothy J. Bartkiw

Timothy J. Bartkiw

Ryerson University - Ted Rogers School of Management

Date Written: September 15, 2012


Temporary help agency employment (THAE) is a peculiar and often precarious employment form that has become increasingly salient in Canada in recent decades. Seeking to advance both the literatures on precarious work and union renewal, this article examines the effects of the expansion of this unique employment form upon labour unions, and union responses to this phenomenon. The study employed a qualitative exploratory method, involving twenty-four interviews with key informants from fourteen large labour unions, two union federations, and the Toronto-based workers’ centre known as the “Workers’ Action Centre.” Various effects of the expansion of THAE on unions were identified and categorized as relating to either union organizing or representation activities, and a range of union responses to the phenomenon are also discussed. Overall, it is suggested that THAE growth carries the potential to constrain organizing and representation activities in multiple ways, although its effects are highly mediated by other contextual factors. Union responses have thus far been largely limited to incremental adjustments aimed at shoring up traditional organizing and collective bargaining practices.

Keywords: unions, temporary help agencies, temporary agency employment

JEL Classification: J50

Suggested Citation

Bartkiw, Timothy J., Unions and Temporary Help Agency Employment (September 15, 2012). Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations, Vol. 67, No. 3, 2012, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2142790

Timothy J. Bartkiw (Contact Author)

Ryerson University - Ted Rogers School of Management ( email )


Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics