They dumped all the agency programmers a month after I started my software contract with Societe Internationale de Telecommunications Aeronautiques (SITA) in 1982.

It was a decision that came from Paris, fallout from the 1982 recession. A lot of those dumped contractors were layered up. They came in through an agency that in turn provided them through a general contractor, and SITA itself was essentially billing out their time back to Air France and Lufthansa who in turn were funded by their governments.

As much as I'm a proponent of free-market labor, this layering up of contractors just seems wrong. Its prevalence at government and pseudo-government installations stiffs the little guy and the taxpayer at the hands of the public sector.

A commenter on Business Week lashed out about it the other day. In "When It Comes to Temps, Who's the Boss?", Ransomexx and Murica let it rip:

The temp agency model clearly has a dark side. Employers and agencies sign exclusive contracts that bar any independent contractor from seeking direct employment outside of the agency model. Independents that buck the system can be black-balled from ever working with either the employer or agency. It is not unusual for three to four agencies to share the earnings of a single contractor... 

Employing temps is as permanent employees kills morale. They are being paid less, get no benefits, and usually no PTO.

Now, there is probably a tech recruiter out there -- possibly a client of mine -- who might be thinking that I'm saying it's wrong to engage in layer-upping. I'm not. I'm betting you have better business out there, but some days you take what you can get. You're sitting on a Java Dev job req for some VMS who in turn sells the person to Cognizant who in turn sells the person to IBM who in turn sells it to the feds. You fill it. You take a shower afterwards, but you fill it.

These days I spend a lot more time recruiting than coding, and I run across a lot of these n-deep contractors looking for their next gig. They come off loud and clear as not caring about what they were doing or why. There is no meaning attached to the work they've done.

I would never hire one.

Tags: Industry