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Voice and its implications for employment quality in temporary agency work in Sweden and Belgium

Chapter in book
Authors Kristina Håkansson
Valeria Pulignano
Tommy Isidorsson
Nadja Doerflinger
Published in Tommy Isidorsson & Julia Kubisa (red.) Job Quality in an Era of Flexibility: Experiences in a European Context
Pages 137-159
ISBN 9781138561595
Publisher Routledge
Place of publication Abingdon, Oxon
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Sociology and Work Science
Centre for Global Human Resource Management
Pages 137-159
Language en
Keywords agency work, atypical contracts, Belgium, collective agreement, collective bargaining, employment, flexibility, insecurity, open-ended contracts, permanent contracts, regulatory context, security, Sweden, temporary contract, tenure, unemployment, voice, wage, workforce, working conditions, working time,
Subject categories Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology), Work Sciences


The chapter Voice and Employment Quality for Temporary Agency Workers (TAW) in Sweden and Belgium Håkansson, Pulignano, Isidorsson and Nadja Doerflinger aim at explaining how institutional settings interplay with employment quality for temporary agency workers. The focus for our study is how national and sectoral regulation on employment and representation influences job security for temporary agency workers at the workplace level, thereby contributing to shaping those workers’ employment quality. By comparing two similar Belgian and Swedish workplaces, the chapter assesses how different social arrangements for TAW, including both regulatory settings at national (industry) level and the collective practices of representation and voice of agency work at local levels, can explain agency workers’ experience of job security. As the two countries differ in terms of employment relations systems, regulation of TAW, and representation structure, a comparative analysis is appropriate. Data were collected mainly through 47 semi-structured interviews lasting 60-120 minutes. Our results show that national regulations and collective structures for representation shape the unions’ possibilities to represent agency workers and their general approaches towards TAW. Hence, our findings add to the understanding of the conditions contributing to job insecurity and representation insecurity for agency workers. Our study also shows that a strong representation structure at the client organization and inclusive attitudes towards agency workers, is a prerequisite; but it is not sufficient to guarantee security. This chapter indicates that national regulation granting agency workers on assignment access to collective voice in the client organization is crucial for job security. Thus, this chapter illustrates the multidimensionality of job quality by showing how job security and representation security are intertwined.

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