Action needed on precarious employment in Ontario

The following letter by CUPE Local 79 President Tim Maguire was sent to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, urging for government action on the trend of increased precarious employment.

 

Dear Premier Wynne,

On behalf of the approximately 20,000 members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 79, I wish to acknowledge and applaud your statements regarding the economic impact of precarious work and the need for policy makers across all backgrounds to work together to tackle the issue. It is indeed heartening to know that you appear willing to take action, and it is CUPE Local 79’s hope that this will happen sooner rather than later.

The recent, well-publicized report from United Way Toronto and McMaster University, entitled It’s More than Poverty – Employment Precarity and Household Well-being, shed a long–overdue spotlight on this disturbing trend that is becoming the norm rather than the exception for many in the workforce. Precarious employment has increased by nearly 50% in the last 20 years, and it continues to do so.

Precarious employment poses a huge threat to economic stability and community well-being. Social isolation is just one of the many adverse effects caused by the uncertainty of this type of work. According to the It’s More than Poverty report, “Workers in precarious employment tend to exit and re-enter the labour market much more often than those in permanent employment. They are less likely to be included in training programs provided by the employer.”

It’s More than Poverty focuses on three crucial areas:

  • Ensuring jobs are a pathway to income and employment security
  • Supporting human capital development
  • Enhancing social and community supports for families and communities.

CUPE Local 79 firmly believes that the Province of Ontario has the ability and the resources to have a positive impact on all of these identified topics.

The recent report from the Law Commission of Ontario, with its 47 recommendations, is a welcome addition to the volume of knowledge on precarious employment. It provides you and your government with a useful template with which to begin to reverse this damaging trend.

The report’s recommendations, particularly those regarding improving the Employment Standards Act, ensuring that part-time workers are paid proportionally the same wage as full-time workers, increasing protections for temporary migrant workers, and a greater emphasis on enforcing workplace health and safety rules, are especially important to CUPE Local 79.

These recommendations only confirm what Labour leaders and advocates have expressed concerns about for a long time, namely that significant numbers of today’s workers have less stability or security, are often paid low wages with little or no entitlement to benefits (including pensions, dental and extended medical coverage, and life/disability insurance), the quality of the jobs available is declining at an alarming rate, and employment laws and regulations are out-dated.

You have been quoted stating “If we want our industries and our economy to be doing well, we need people to be doing well. We need everyone to have good opportunities for employment.”

Precarious employment is taking a toll on our families, on our communities, on our social cohesion, on our productivity, and on the well-being of our province.

CUPE Local 79 urges you to follow-up on your timely statements by taking the necessary steps as soon as possible to adopt the recommendations of the Law Commission of Ontario’s report.

Yours truly,

Tim Maguire
President