Liberal cabinet members met this week to discuss whether some critical $15 and Fairness demands will be turned into law. It was a discussion that would never have taken place without the many years of organizing done by the Workers’ Action Centre and our many allies. For WAC members who have been exploited at one precarious job after another, the Ontario government’s serious consideration of improved labour laws has been a long time coming.
Bad jobs with low wages come at a high cost to everyone involved. The effects on precarious workers are plain to see. Workers deal with stolen wages in many forms, including unpaid wages and, of course, a minimum wage that keeps us living well below the poverty line. We are also paying a high price in the quality of our lives. Too many have to work multiple jobs just to cover basic expenses such as housing, transportation and childcare. WAC member Erendira explained this anxiety in a recent CTV News article: “At the moment I have nothing permanent in my life because I don’t know how much money I will make in the next month and how much I will be paid.”
Erendira holds a list of demands for her MPP. Click here to share this photo on Facebook.
Some corporations and lobby groups are still in denial about the growth of precarious work and resulting poverty. The Ontario Chamber of Commerce has shown itself to be out of touch with the workers in this province by denying the devastating impact of increasing contract and temp agency work, and are pushing not to change our labour laws but to keep things the same. Our communities are not fooled. In fact, a growing number of businesses are seeing the side effects of bad working conditions on their bottom line.
Earlier this month, CBC News exposed just how much the unfair practice of contract flipping costs both businesses and workers alike. At Toronto’s Pearson Airport where company contracts expire every few years, businesses try to stay “competitive” by offering race-to-the-bottom wages and working conditions. The result? Companies report seeing turnover rates as high as 160%. Baggage handling company Swissport Canada, for example, loses $3,500 each time a worker quits. Meanwhile, these companies end up being short on staff, meaning workers are expected to work long hours, which takes a real toll on their health. Swissport Canada came out in support of a $15 minimum wage!
People and organizations across Ontario have been calling their Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) this week to drive home just how important each $15 and Fairness demand is. At the Workers’ Action Centre, we mobilized our members to call their MPPs, and to get their friends, family, and coworkers to call as well. With the voices in favour of decent work growing louder in Ontario, we are confident our elected officials will do the right thing. If you haven’t done so yet, make sure you call your MPP today. Each phone call and letter counts as we speak up for better labour laws. At this crucial moment, we can’t afford to be silent!