More can be done to combat ‘wage theft,’ labour minister admits

TheStar.com – news/Ontario
Published On Thu May 12 2011.   Robert Benzie, Queen’s Park Bureau Chief

Labour Minister Charles Sousa says the Ontario government has made strides to help the most vulnerable workers, but concedes more can be done to stem “wage theft.”

In the wake of a new report that found one-third of low-income workers had their wages withheld or stolen by employers, Sousa insisted Queen’s Park would not tolerate such activity.

“We can always do better. I recognize that there are people still who are vulnerable and require support,” the minister said Thursday.

“As a result over the last number of years recently we’ve doubled the number of inspectors, we’ve got over 11,000 inspections that have been made and we’ve recovered $65 million in lost wages,” he said.

“So the initiatives that we’ve taken have been a result of the ongoing advocacy of individuals out in the community and we’ve taken steps and we will continue to target these very areas that are being considered.”

Sousa’s comments came after a Workers’ Action Centre report found one in three of 520 casual and temporary workers surveyed in the Greater Toronto Area and Windsor had been victims of “wage theft.”

It concluded that “the lack of protection in Ontario workplaces leaves many of the workers … with little hope of getting the wages they’re owed, resulting in significant economic hardship.”

NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo (Parkdale-High Park) said that’s an indictment of the Liberal government.

“That’s a very, very sad commentary on the deplorable state of employment standards in this province,” she said.

DiNovo urged the government to follow recommendations such as targeting “industries like cleaning, hospitality, retail and construction, where newcomers to our province have a long, long history of substandard employment practices.”

Sousa, however, said the Liberals have done more to help vulnerable workers than previous administrations in their eight years in office.

“Between 1989 and 2003 — that was between the time when both the NDP and the Conservatives were in power — there were 97 prosecutions initiated under the Employment Standards Act,” he said.

< http://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/article/990469–more-can-be-done-to-combat-wage-theft-labour-minister-admits >

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