Ontario Liberals must act to protect most vulnerable workers
TheStar.com – opinion/editorials – The Ontario government must protect vulnerable workers by following recommendations from a Law Commission of Ontario report.
Apr 08 2013. Editorial
For the hundreds of thousands of Ontarians employed in low-paying, temporary jobs, the concept of standing up for workplace rights is little more than a fast track to unemployment.
Many are vulnerable to the shady practices of employers who withhold pay, abuse their power or fire workers on a whim. There’s a reason why the Law Commission of Ontario, among others, has identified these workers as “precarious.” Their lives — and futures — are limited by increasingly vulnerable jobs. It’s a terrible way to live.
To that end, the commission’s report called “Vulnerable Workers and Precarious Work” has made 42 recommendations that would better the lives of the 22 per cent of Ontario workers living with low wages and unstable employment.
For Premier Kathleen Wynne, who promises a fair and compassionate Ontario, the report’s recommendations provide a blueprint for change. If Wynne wants to defend society’s most vulnerable, she could take immediate action on several of the easiest fixes and get bureaucrats started on more complicated reforms.
As the Star’s Laurie Monsebraaten reports, the report calls for a commission to study the rate of minimum wage increases and tougher enforcement against employers who break existing rules in the Employment Standards Act. The report also points out that the act is weakened by exemptions based on occupations, hours of work and length of service. Clearly, the legislation hasn’t kept up with Ontario’s workforce.
The time has come for change. As the report says, “Today more work is precarious, with less job security, few if any benefits and minimal control over working conditions.” It points to the “growing phenomenon” of temporary workers in the Ontario marketplace, with 1,000 temporary work agencies employing a portion of the 735,000 employees. (Some contract workers are professionals earning good wages.)
It’s a shame that the Ontario government has known about these problems for many years without taking necessary action. It’s now Wynne’s turn to listen — and act.
Key recommendations from this latest report, along with those from long-time activists, should be included in the Liberals’ spring budget. It’s the last chance for the government to make good on worker protection promises made in its 2008 five-year anti-poverty strategy. After five years, it’s finally time for Ontario to move in this crucial area.
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