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A COMPLEX LEGAL LANDSCAPE: BLURRED ORGANISATIONAL BOUNDARIES OF AGENCY EMPLOYMENT AND ITS IMPLICATIONS ON WORKERS’ STATUTORY RIGHTS

A. Sheikh

Abu Dhabi University (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
The proliferation of agency employment in Pakistan is a serious labour problem and a public policy concern because of the potentially negative implications for agency workers’ basic statutory rights. Agency workers are normally given a vastly different, often negligible, package of benefits from their permanent counterparts. They are especially vulnerable to instant dismissal and are generally excluded from collective bargaining arrangements. Unions regard the use of agency employment as exploitative, and a threat to their jurisdiction and membership. This study explored the motives, nature and implications of agency employment in six case study organisations in Pakistan from three industrial sectors namely hotel, dairy and polyester manufacturing, all of which are characterised by a higher than average incidence of agency employment. A total of 97 interviews, undertaken with employees, employers, agency and union officials, and industry specialists revealed sufficient evidence confirming the anecdotal evidence that some employment agencies are not truly genuine and the set up was merely a legal fiction. Evidence suggested that agency employment often involves dubious, unfair, law evading and at times illegal practices, such as the use of pay-rolling agencies. The pay-rolling agency system is potentially an attempt by employers to bypass statutory obligations concerning workers’ statutory benefit entitlements and trade union rights, simply by paying workers through an agency to illustrate the indirectness of employment.