Good jobs are hard to find these days.
More and more jobs are part-time, or temporary, or temp agency jobs. More people work in low-wage jobs with no benefits. Even many people in so-called “permanent” jobs worry about whether they’ll be working a year from now.
The latest term for all these bad, insecure jobs is “precarious work.”
So I was glad to see our provincial government launch a review of Ontario’s laws around work. The stated goal of the Changing Workplaces Review is “to improve security and opportunity for those made vulnerable by the structural economic pressures and changes being experienced by Ontarians in 2015.”
I’m all in favour. We need to change labour laws and employment standards – first, to make it easier for working people to join unions and build better lives; and second, to set decent standards for those who don’t have a union yet. I told this to the Review last week (read my remarks here); earlier this summer, my fellow OPSEU board member Ron Elliot did too.
Brother Elliot and I made another point as well: the Ontario government itself is one of the main drivers of precarious work in this province.
Take a look at the way some of our government-funded public services are run.
In our colleges, underpaid part-timers now outnumber full-time permanent staff. Some part-time college faculty are getting paid one-tenth the going rate for credit courses.
At the LCBO, some managers are shortening eight-hour shifts for casual employees down to five hours. That way they can bring in lower-paid, less senior casuals for the other three hours.
In developmental services, the government’s plan to have families hire their own support workers is creating an unregulated, under-the-table, lower-wage workforce – all paid for with public dollars.
In hospitals and many other large workplaces, contracting out of services has taken good union jobs and turned them into precarious jobs where contractors pay as little as they can and job security is just a memory.
Everywhere we look, public sector employers are going out of their way to cut wages and benefits and increase the use of part-time work. They’re hiring exploited temp agency staff. They’re making jobs more insecure.
So here’s my message to Kathleen Wynne and her Liberals: if you want to make jobs less precarious, start with the jobs where you are the employer.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union