Fairness for temps

TheStar.com – Opinion/editorial – Fairness for temps
December 11, 2008

Ontario has long had two classes of workers: Those with the benefits and legal protections that come with permanent jobs and those with the misfortune to be called temporary workers.

Queen’s Park is finally bringing relief to many of the 700,000 “temps” who are being denied access to public holidays and severance pay and are being charged fees just to get a job. Legislation introduced Tuesday would end these practices and give people hired through temp agencies many of the same rights as other workers.

“It’s not right and it’s not fair,” Labour Minister Peter Fonseca says of the problems with the current system.

Temp agencies have been allowed to “double dip” by charging employers a fee for finding workers and charging employees a fee for connecting them with jobs.

Removing fees for agency workers and paying them for Ontario’s nine public holidays could mean thousands of extra dollars in the pockets of these employees. Given the number of women and new Canadians who find work through temp agencies, that should help in the province’s battle to reduce poverty.

The legislation, once passed, would also remove the barriers temp agencies have put in place to make it difficult for their workers to be hired on permanently, even after doing the same job for years. Under the bill, after six months, agencies wouldn’t be allowed to charge a company a fee if it decides to hire a worker permanently.

This doesn’t mean all the temp workers would suddenly get permanent jobs. There’s a reason temp work exists. It gives employers flexibility to adjust their workforce to the ups and downs of business.

But removing barriers would increase the chance. And given temp agency workers are paid 40 per cent less than permanent employees, it’s an important opportunity.

Twenty years ago, one in 10 new hires was temporary. Now it’s closer to one in four. As the nature of work has changed, some unscrupulous agencies have found ways to turn the rules to their advantage.

Not all temp agencies are bad. The government says this legislation will benefit the good agencies – by repairing their poor reputation and rewarding them for treating employees well – and run the bad ones out of town. Let’s hope so.

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