WAC has released a policy brief in response to The Law Commission of Ontario’s Interim Report on Vulnerable Workers and Precarious Work. We encourage our community allies and supporters to provide feedback to the Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) by their deadline of October 1, 2012.
The LCO’s Interim Report on Vulnerable Workers confirms that work today has become less secure, lower paid, has fewer benefits, if any, and provides little protection against workplace abuses and injury. The report also demonstrates that it is women, immigrants and racialized workers that are most in precarious work.
Improvements to employment standards
The Interim Report focuses on important improvements to employment standards including recommendations such as:
- Review exemptions to the Employment Standards Act (ESA) that allow lower standards in some types of work;
- Review of minimum wage and create process for future increases to the minimum wage;
- Equal pay for workers in equivalent positions (e.g., part time and full time);
- Substantially increase proactive enforcement of both employment standards and health and safety, especially in sectors that are at high risk for violations;
- Expand the time limits and increase the monetary cap for workers trying to recover unpaid wages;
- Provide a process for third party complaints to trigger inspections of workplaces to protect workers; and,
- The Ministry of Labour act to reduce misclassification of employees self-employed (which employers do to reduce wages and entitlements).
Key issues to address
The Workers’ Action Centre urges the LCO to carry forward the above recommendations and others listed in our policy brief in its report to the Ontario Government. However, there are some key issues that still need to be addressed to more fully address precarious work including:
- Ensure that companies that engage subcontractors should be jointly liable for monetary obligations and other ESA entitlements;
- Ensure that worker councils in non-unionized workplaces would confer power on worker members to enforce minimum standards given the power imbalances that the ESA seeks to remedy. To be effective, they would also require externally provided ESA training, and the ability for an employee complaints procedure with the Ministry of Labour where reprisals or violations of the Council mandate takes place; and,
- Provide more consideration to non-status workers.
Improving protection for migrant workers
While the report makes important recommendations to protect migrant workers, further recommendations are needed in this area, including:
- Eliminate the exclusion of domestic workers from the OHSA;
- The Ontario Government must develop a comprehensive strategy that addresses prevention of pesticide/chemical exposure among migrant farm workers, including regular and unannounced inspections by the Ministry of Labour;
- End the practice of “deeming” migrant workers by the WSIB and devise a system to pay for healthcare-related transportation costs upfront so that injured migrant workers are not financially barred from obtaining healthcare;
- Leadership from the Ontario government in seeking expanded protection for migrant workers through inter-jurisdictional cooperation with the federal government, including issuing open work permits in cases where workers make complaints about labour law violations; and,
- Following the recent Metcalf Foundation report, ensure that migrant workers can immigrate to Canada and arrive with status
Read our policy brief for more in-depth analysis and recommendations