Looking for good jobs

TheStar.com – Opinion/editorial – Looking for good jobs
Nov 22, 2008.

Working hard, at full-time hours, is no longer a ticket out of poverty for a growing number of people. What would it take to change that?

Today in Toronto, that question is being asked at the “Good Jobs for All” summit. One possible answer is to rein in employment agencies that place workers in low-paying temporary jobs with few benefits.

Twenty years ago, one in 10 new hires was temporary. Now it’s closer to one in four. Some workers in the manufacturing sector have been laid off only to get their jobs back through a temp agency, at a greatly reduced wage.

It’s easy to see why these agencies, now a multi-billion-dollar industry, have flourished in our just-in-time economy. They offer employers a pliable workforce that can be hired, and fired, at a moment’s notice, and they don’t qualify for benefits or holidays.

Ontario’s labour laws and employment standards have not caught up to this new reality. There are dozens of loopholes for unscrupulous agencies to demand hefty placement fees, deny legal entitlements, and make it difficult for employees to get hired on permanently, even after years of doing the same job on a “temporary” basis.

Temp agencies have changed greatly from their roots 60 years ago as a provider of young women to fill short absences in clerical offices. Labour laws must change, too. Queen’s Park knows this and is expected to bring forward new legislation shortly. It should be more than mere tinkering around the edges.

There is a place for temporary work; it gives workers experience and lets employers tailor their workforce to the ups and downs of business. But it shouldn’t be used as a way around hiring needed staff.

For those in precarious work situations, the measures to be introduced by the province could mean the difference between a continued life on the edge and hope for something more stable.

Comments on this story are moderated

What will it take…?

Government isn’t merely “overlooking” the abuse of workers rights to a liveable wage and benefits, it actively supports such practices through benign neglect. This is nothing more than a gift to business who seems to dictate what government legislation gets submitted and what doesn’t. Politicians simply represent their rich friends interests. Many poorly treated workers are new immigrants who haven’t found their legs and know little about organizing to form unions to achieve the benefits and wages they need to live. That is what increased immigration is all about – a steady supply of low-wage slaves for business. But, as I’ve said many times, you can’t have a viable economy based on part-time, low-wage jobs. Without money to spend, no money gets spent, hence the economy gets flushed. Things just aren’t bad enough just yet to see change…but we are getting there.

Submitted By R. Wright at 1:43 PM Saturday, November 22 2008

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