Contingent Workers


            The contingent workforce is a significant part of the labor industry that is often discreet yet powerful. Although contingent workers are mostly temporary employees, contract workers, part-timers, and college interns, no company survives without employing an individual under these categories. Employing contingent workers both have its advantages and disadvantages. An advantage is lesser pay and flexible management of employee arrangements. A common disadvantage is the lack of loyalty that can be expected from contingent workers. The fact that they have not secured a regular position keeps contingent workers on guard and constantly in search of better employment opportunities.

            Often, the advantage-disadvantage scale is weighed from the perspective of the employer. The side of the employee is often disregarded, as it is a relatively small consideration compared to, say, a company interest. However, the growing amount of contingent workers as demanded by our shifting economic conditions signifies that employers should begin taking into consideration a contingent workers interest.

            The process begins in choosing which approach to employ. This paper tackles the appropriate approach for contingent workers, unitarist or pluralist. Appropriateness of the choice is discussed. The approach is also discussed in terms of two human resource management functions: recruitment and selection and remuneration. Sample situations are given to prove each point.


            Reviewing Chang & Liao’s (2009) text, the dissatisfaction of contingent workers employed by international tourist hotels can summarily be attributed to four factors: financial instability due to low pay, lack of job security for career growth, alienation from regular workers, and lack of firm footing in the company. Analyzing these factors, it would lead to the idea that some employees are dissatisfied not because they are contingent workers but because they are disregarded, alienated, and easily discarded. They do not belong to any stable work group, they have no position to share opinions or contribute to decision-making processes, and they are generally regarded as disposable assets despite the fact that they contribute to the company (Kalleberg, 2000).  Therefore, the thesis of the paper is that, the unitarist approach is the appropriate manner to deal with contingent workers.


            Unitarism is an industrial relations concept that perceives the organization as a smooth-flowing and integrated system whose workers are a happy and closely-knit family (Johnson, 2006). Unitarism assumes that all employees at various work levels and divisions work with the same objectives and interests in mind; therefore, regardless of classification, all employees can work in unity towards the company goal they share (Harper, 2001). The paternalistic approach significant in unitarism provokes the feeling of loyalty from employees (Smith & Locke, 1999). The unitarist work environment does not need the presence of unions and perceives the occurrence of conflict as disruption.

            In the employee perspective, a unitarist approach is desirable because it influences work practices to be flexible; it inspires workers to be oriented with the improvement of business process; it requires multi-skills, work efficiency, and competency;    it empowers the power of unions, when present, by enhancing channels of communication between the employees and management; and, it emphasizes the importance of good relationships and acceptable employment terms and conditions (Organ, 1988).

            Employee participation is also encouraged by unitarism in making workplace decisions. This advantage empowers individuals regardless of their roles and work levels. It inspires team work, creativity, innovation, self and team improvement, problem-solving abilities, etc. Summarily put, the employer motivates and inspires workers in unitarism. Communication with the staff is open. Reward systems are established to promote loyalty, security, contentment, and commitment. Lastly, staff-management conflicts are quickly addressed and resolved (Smith & Locke, 1999; Harper, 2001).


            To recall, it was mentioned in the Thesis Statement section of this paper that the apparent dissatisfaction of contingent workers is caused by being disregarded, alienated, and treated as disposable company assets. With the ideals and assumptions of the unitarist approach, a company making use of unitarism would promote stability in work relationships, build a “happy-family” environment in the workplace, encourage all employees regardless of work level to contribute to decision-making processes and express their opinions, and provide a stable working environment where even contingent workers can expect a reasonable amount of remuneration for their services.

            The pluralist approach may be applicable in the sense that its ideals and assumptions create powerful sub-groups with varying objectives and loyalties (Gallagher & Sverke, 2005). It may seem applicable to use pluralism to contingent workers. After all, with the presence of powerful and influential unions, contingent workers can fight for better pay and amiable working conditions (Gallagher & Sverke, 2005). However, despite pluralism being capable of providing job security and financial contentment, its feature of classifying employees into subgroups will not address the need of every contingent worker to feel complete acceptance and ease in working at the company. The presence of unions, even if powerful, can never guarantee an employee in securing a regular position, not even being sacked from work.

            Usage of the unitarism approach also allows the company to build an environment that would promote loyalty to the company regardless of a contingent position. Although employing temporary workers, companies have lesser fear of being deserted by these temporary assets whose service is absolutely beneficial to the company (Tan & Tan, 2002). Unitarism also causes a company to worry less about employee-management conflicts and strikes.


            The process of recruitment and selection for regular workers is almost the same as the process underwent by contingent workers. Each candidate is expected to complete certain requirements, meet specific qualifications, and qualify various assessments such as exams, interviews, or demonstrations. However, there is a notable difference between using a unitarist recruitment and selection process from a pluralist recruitment and selection process.

            To begin with, unitarist recruitment and selection will not give the impression that there would be no room for career growth, given that the open position requires temporary employees. Unitarism would influence the process to be warm and accommodating to the applicants. Although it would be made quite clearly in the beginning that the open position is a temporary one, the approach of applicant assessment is in such a way that every applicant is considered not as a vacancy filler but a potential worker who will initially work temporarily but can possibly assume a regular position with the company in the future. Unitarism requires the approach to exude a “happy family” environment. Thus, the attitude would be evident to every applicant even before succeeding with winning the position. This would show the applicant what to expect from the company aside from the position he/she is applying for (Segal & Sullivan, 1997).

            The pluralist approach will employ a rigid means of recruitment and selection process. The temporary position will be presented as it is, and there is no opportunity to exhibit the possible career growth an applicant may expect. The likely tendency in using pluralism in recruitment and selection is to make applicants feel that the position is not rewarding enough to pursue (Segal & Sullivan, 1997).


            It must be understood from the beginning that the remuneration a regular employee receives may not be the same as what is offered to employees in contingent positions. However, this does not necessarily mean that compensation for contingent workers is no longer appealing. The concept of an appealing remuneration for contingent workers does not imply that the amount should be similar to regular employees receive. Instead, remuneration for contingent workers should be designed in such a way that reward and appreciation from the company is evident (Gale, 2001).

            The pluralist approach would not perceive such a comprehensive remuneration program for employees in contingent work levels. Pluralist companies would be content to provide hourly wages. However, adapting Unitarism in designing remuneration programs presents exciting opportunities both for the employer and the employee.

In the part of the employee, he/she can expect a reasonable amount of compensation for the services he/she has rendered. This follows the principle of Unitarism in providing acceptable employment terms and conditions and financial security. Also, other forms of remuneration that could build the loyalty of contingent workers are benefits, performance-linked incentives, stock options (in a stock company), deferred compensation, and commission (in sales) (Gale, 2001).

In the part of the employer, the company can expect a group of happy workers who are eager to go to work, get the job done, and determined to excel and prove themselves (Folger & Konovsky, 1989). A rewarding remuneration program would inspire employees to work hard everyday regardless of level and position. In turn, turnover rate would be low and the assets of the company would remain working with them because they are happy to do so. The ripple effect would be, talented people who have heard of the satisfaction of employees, even in the contingency level, would be eager to give it a try and experience the contentment the workers of the company feel (Folger & Konovsky, 1989).


            As a recap, we have hypothesized that the unitarist approach is the most appropriate approach in management of contingent workers. Unitarism provokes a company to exude a closely-knit, happy working environment where pay is good, opinions are sought, decisions are made by the majority, and the work environment is secure and stable even for the contingent worker. In recruitment and selection and remuneration, the unitarist approach displays its advantages as it show’s the unitarist company’s ability to easily recruit talent and retain their loyalty for the long term benefit both of the company and the employee. Pluralist points have been compared and contrasted. The comparison shows that the unitarist approach is more applicable in a company whose desire is to maintain a happy hoard of contingent workers.


            Every employee in every organization in every field is in search of a position where he can feel secure and appreciated. A worker is an asset who contributes to the company, no matter what position he is in. Even contingent workers deserve a reasonable amount of respect and appreciation from their employers. This paper has shown how the unitarist approach can help companies achieve just that. Taking care of the employees of a company would bring more and long-term results that would surely reward their organization for the effort.


Chang, C. & Liao, I. (2009, August). “Individual characteristics, organizational justice and job attitudes of employees under non-standard work arrangements: Study of employees of international tourist hotels.” International Journal of Management. Aug 2009. (26) 2; p. 224

Folger, R. & Konovsky, M. (1989). “Effects of procedural justice and distributive on reactions to pay raise decisions.” Academy of Management Journal, (32) 1, 115-130

Gale, S. (2001). “Formalized flexi time: The perk that brings productivity.” Workforce, (80) 2, 39-42

Gallagher, D. G. & Sverke, M. (2005). “Contingent employment contracts: are existing employment theories still relevant?” Economic and Industrial Democracy. (26) 2; p. 181-203

Johnson, D. (2006). The Unitary Perspective: Industrial Relations. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Harper, L (2001). Labor Relations Concepts in Employee Approaches. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Sage Publishing.

Kalleberg, A. (2000). “Nonstandard employment relations: Part-time, temporary, and contract work.” Annual Review of Sociology, (26), 341-345

Organ, D. W. (1988). Organizational citizenship behavior: The good soldier syndrome. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books

Segal, L. & Sullivan, D. (1997). “The growth of temporary services work.” The Journal of Economic Perspectives, (11) 2, 117-136

Smith, A. & Locke, C. (1999). Tactical Approaches for Contingent Worker Relations and Management. (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education

Tan, H. & Tan, C. (2002). “Temporary employees in Singapore: What drives them?” The Journal of Psychology, (136) 1, 83-102


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