Workplace inspectors key to province’s new temp agency licensing regime

Toronto – After years of calling on the provincial government to take action, OPSEU/SEFPO is pleased to see legislation to protect temp agency staff, saying it’s a step in the right direction toward fairness and justice for Ontario’s most vulnerable workers.

The province has announced a new licensing regime, where temp agencies will be vetted, licensed and inspected for illegal treatment of workers, including wage theft and illegal recruitment fees.

“Workers need protection from these predatory temp agencies more than ever,” said OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “It’s unacceptable that these corporate giants are stealing workers’ wages and sending them to work in the most dangerous conditions with such little regard for their health, safety or even their lives.

“These agencies are preying on the most vulnerable workers – often women, immigrants and those from racialized communities – at one of the most difficult times in modern history,” said Thomas. “It’s criminal, and it’s high-time it came to an end.”

As part of its plan, the province has proposed the establishment of a specialized task force of labour inspectors who would identify cases of exploitation. The province could then enforce stricter penalties and even shut down temp agencies that exploit staff.

While the union supports the province’s call for stricter penalties and the recovery of stolen wages, OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says that successful enforcement will hinge on the work done by workplace inspectors.

“We must shine a light on the deplorable conditions and illegal activity that is rampant in these dark corners of the labour market if we’re going to fix the problem,” said Almeida. “Our labour inspectors are the ones shining that light. If the current administration is serious about rebalancing the scales of justice for vulnerable workers – and we believe they are – they should hire many more inspectors to do this vital work.”

OPSEU/SEFPO proudly represents hundreds of Ministry of Labour inspectors, whose own workload demands have grown exponentially during the COVID-19 crisis.

“I’m proud to say, and pleased to see, that all our work with Minister McNaughton and his staff is paying off,” said Thomas. “So much can be achieved through conversation and collaboration, instead of just name-calling. This government is listening to us, and as a result, real working people will benefit.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931