The Viacom Permalance Slave System

Here's what we hear from what we believe has truly become the Viacom sweatshop. (One Viacom permalancer estimates that almost 50% of the staff are contract workers at this point.) A 50-hour workweek will now be standard, at least at MTV Digital (which means no overtime until after 50 hours, and no overtime at all for higher-level people, like producers and segment producers), and all will go from a day rate to an hourly rate. Healthcare, which was offered to permalancers after a staggering year of service, will now be offered only to employees who have worked 1,280 hours (25 of those 50-hour workweeks) in any one division. And that's the catch: Get transfered, as often happens, from VH1 to MTV or the like, and you start over on that clock.

Here's how they were planning on telling people: Viacom sends out Christmas party invites to staff, but permalancers have to go pick them up. (Nice caste system.) So when permalancers went to pick up the invites, they were told "go across the table to pick up your new paperwork."

We hear that at least one manager will give his or her permalancers "off the books flex holiday days," but that's not a company initiative by any stretch.

What's more:

Tuition reimbursement is gone. Dental is gone. Commuter pre-tax deductions via WageWorks is gone. The healthcare goes from United Healthcare to Aetna.

Best of all: The company has asked workers to sign the paperwork before they attend the informational session that explains it.