|By STEVEN GREENHOUSE|
Published: March 30, 1998
They hold high-prestige, high-technology jobs at Microsoft's plush campus. They often do the same work as the Microsoft Corporation's permanent employees, developing CD-ROM's, designing World Wide Web sites and writing software manuals. Yet they do not qualify for Microsoft's coveted stock options, and their health and vacation benefits are pale imitations of those enjoyed by regular Microsoft workers.
They are long-term temps -- a seeming oxymoron, but in fact a new and growing phenomenon in the American work force, embraced by many corporations, especially high-tech ones, including Microsoft, AT&T, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft's Seattle neighbor, Boeing.
Microsoft is perhaps the leading practitioner of the trend, employing about 5,000 temps, including 1,500 long-term ones, meaning they have worked for the software colossus for at least one year. These temps work next to Microsoft's 17,000 domestic employees.
Some prefer the flexibility and the higher take-home pay that temp status affords, but many assail temping as a backdoor way to create a two-tier work force. The benefits that the lower tier loses out on, many temps say, far outweigh whatever extra pay they take home.
''It's a system of having two classes of people and instilling fear and inferiority and loathing,'' said Rebecca Hughes, who worked for three years as a temp at Microsoft, helping edit its CD-ROM on health care.
With work lives strung together by...