|As someone who's been a contractor for many more years than I'd care to admit (but certainly since before what the article identifies as a break-point in the '80s), I've seen every flavour and permutation of this, and can only agree that things have been getting progressively "more challenging" for contractors, but there are highs and lows, largely depending on only one factor, which often sours not only contractor relationships, but the entire company: focus.
Time and time again, I've seen product and service companies, which were previously run by people who had built a great company by focussing on consumer and customer needs, taken over by blinkered bods from their finance departments, from their sales departments, from their marketing departments, from their HR departments, and even from their technical departments (yes, it can go just as pear-shaped when we take over -- can't it, Satya?)
If a company has a centralised power structure (pretty common, because most companies are built up by one person, family, or small group of people), that centralisation of power does not dissolve when control of the company "vision" moves from the person/people who made it great (almost exclusively by focussing on consumers) (amazon notwithstanding) to one or more people whose focus is not the one that made the company great.
The Boeing example demonstrates this to a T. Finance bods took over, and the earlier vision of the company -- to make great planes, one might assume -- was lost in a whirlwind of profit-and-loss sheets. And people who weren't finance bods weren't important, were they? I mean, the company only makes aircraft, so what does it need engineers, designers, mechanics, etc, for?
Any of the blinkered new emperors are just as bad for the company, no matter which way their blinkers make everyone in the company look.
E.g. sales "vision":
You know how bad it is when a requirement is based on a ridiculous promise made to a customer, a promise that can never be kept, because it's simply impossible to implement with the available people/budget/technology? Imagine being in a place where every requirement is that way, and you're treated like a third-class citizen because you're not meeting the superbly thought-up-on-the-spur-of-the-moment-just-to-get-a-sale expectations of the wonderful, brilliant sales geniuses.
Every change of (blinkered) focus makes at least one group of employees into untouchables (as in the Indian class system, not Elliot Ness), but this thread is primarily about contractors, and secondarily on too much focus on finance, so I'll try to focus on that (yes, Tim and Satya, you're off the hook) (for now), and keep it within CP's bounds, too (e.g. none of us are office cleaners, so that kind of contracting is out of scope).
Here's an event that could be studied, to show an awful lot about
an awful lot of things a lot of awful things:
Most people (especially in the US) will recall the day when a certain-coloured person who lives in a certain-coloured house decided to cut US corporation tax pretty much in half.
Note that I believe it was the right thing to do: US corporation tax was still at heights that most other countries had long since abandoned, and that was indeed bad for business (but really good for creating a strong sub-class of people whose working lives revolve around finding ways to shield profits from the taxman).
The reaction of US companies to this clearly demonstrated which blinkers were in place, in many cases, and it's not hard to guess what happened to the huge tax-back "bonus" where financial blinkers were in fashion -- e.g. how much paid for improvements for amazon employees,
slaves contractors, and customers, and how much went straight into Bezos' pocket?
What happened at pretty much most places was that a chunk went to stockholders, and the rest went in the direction of whatever blinkers were in place -- i.e. almost none cut prices for customers, which is precisely what would have happened if so many idiots weren't so blinkered.
As a contractor, and therefore a second-class citizen, it made no difference at all to me.
One minor factor in that might be that I'm not a contractor in the US, so I don't pay corporation tax there, but I was working for a US-owned company, at the time, one that really obviously had HR people in the highest places.
So what did they do with the money?
Obviously, a fair chunk of it went to stockholders (because they do all the hardest work that creates the most profit, so they deserve the lion's share of everything), but the rest was handed out as bonuses to every employee, globally -- and it was a surprisingly large bonus.
I didn't get a penny, of course, because I was a second-class citizen in that empire.
However, to finally get back to being fully on-topic, I wasn't completely second class there, because the company, like many I've worked for, insists on hiring through agencies that meet very high standards, and that do most of the stuff that will be done for regular employees.
That is the problem space, not contracting per se.
I'm not even going to talk about zero-hour contracts, because they're no more than modern-day slavery, but, if you're contracting, it's you who has to remember that you are not an employee of the company where you're stationed.
You are working through an agent, so it's the agent who has to meet decent standards, not the company that pays the agent. If you're treated as second class within the company, get over it -- it's up to you to show them that you deserve respect, not vice versa.
It's the agent that you have to hammer, if your conditions aren't good enough.
It's the agencies who have conned everyone into thinking that they have power over their "employees", and have abused that misplaced power to increase their profits at the expense of contractors.
Just remember, when you're talking to an agent, that you do not work for an agent, ever. Agents work for you; they are paid by you to manage your interface with companies that require your services.
If they do hardly any work on your behalf (and many do nearly nothing), dump them. Every position with a hiring company is available through just about every agent in that field, so pick and choose your agents.
If you hire one that treats you like sh1t, who's to blame? And who's perpetuating their existence, by paying them a percentage of their earnings?
When you're looking for a contract, don't just research the job, look into the agents that have it on their books, and always go for the one that will actually do some work for you.
There. Problem solved (the only aspect of it that we can solve, anyway).
I wanna be a eunuchs developer! Pass me a bread knife!