‘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.
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.
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
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
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