A worker is lent out little, a lot, a great deal…

‘Looking for employers ready to share workers, in partnership, for a long life together’. Will we one day see such classified adverts springing up everywhere? One legal formula, that of the Employer Alliance, permits the pooling of a workforce. The aim? To link up flexibility with security. Virginie Xhauflair, an anthropologist, unveils these not very ‘orthodox’, and little known, practices.

partenariat4Comrade Karl Marx might well eat his beard and moustache over it. No matter! Contrary to appearances the Employers Alliances do not add to the alienation of the working or blue collar classes. In reality this legal formula simply allows several businesses to share a pooled workforce. ‘The adoption of this system by a growing number of companies meets the new needs of employers and workers in terms of flexibility and security. It also represents the ingenuity of local employment actors to respond to these new demands,’ relates Virginie Xhauflair.

This anthropologist, who also holds a PhD in Management, has gone further than publishing detailed research (1) on the practices of Employers Alliances (EA). She has taken part in the setting up of such structures in the Liège area, as well as in their evaluation. Multitasking in several places at the same time, she is thus well placed to decode the different problematics which go hand in hand with the birth, the establishment, the co-ordination, the recognition and the regulation of these new forms of employment. Her sharpened perspective also highlights the difficulties encountered in terms of managing the human resources of these full time employees who work for several companies at the same time. Not to mention the upheavals that the EAs could bring about in terms of social regulation and hence a calling into question of the role of the trade unions.

The principle? Let’s share!

The study she has just devoted to the pooling of a work force shows that, depending on the country, different modes and varied reasons push business companies to turn towards a partnership based around a sharing of workers. There is thus no surprise to find a variety of practices and regulations in place.
In itself the idea of such formulae is not new. Thus in France, before the official establishment of EAs, the agricultural sector didn’t hesitate to put to work informal practices which ranged from sharing equipment to sharing the workers. In Belgium several workforce pooling schemes developed within the relative legal confusion which existed within this area. But the EAs have the advantage of legalising this practice and providing it with a framework. In addition they aim at full time job security. And if, depending on the country, the EAs are inscribed in diversified partnership logics, more often than not these practices are developed within regions or employment areas undergoing economic redeployment. ‘They allow the perimeters within which work flexibility and job security are organised to be rethought,’ points out Virginie Xhauflair.

The pluses of lobbying

In France, officially, everything began for the EAs with a July 1985 legal Act. It stipulates that ‘an Employers Alliance has the aim of allowing corporations and individuals, brought together in an association, to jointly employ one or more workers. The latter are tied to the EP by a job contract. They are made available to the member companies in terms of expressed needs, in order to  meet the needs of a part time workforce, to occasionally benefit from a qualified person, to deal with peak or seasonal activity, or to train and offer  people qualifications.’

(1) Virginie Xhauflair : « La Mutualisation de main d’œuvre : diversité des pratiques et nouveaux enjeux ».  in Allouche, José (Ed.) Encyclopédie des Ressources Humaines (in press)

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