When 47% of workers live paycheque to paycheque, the impacts of wage theft can be devastating. A new survey by the Canadian Payroll Association found that almost half of those surveyed would be in financial difficulty if their pay cheque was delayed by even one week. Ontario had one of the highest percentages of workers working on the edge – 52% of those surveyed in Ontario said they would face difficulties if their pay was late.
Yet, many workers face this scenario on a regular basis. A recent Workers’ Action Centre survey found that 1 in 3 workers had experienced unpaid wages. When workers face bounced cheques or don’t get paid at all – they are often forced to wait much longer than one week to recover their pay. Some workers never see their unpaid wages, even after filing an Employments Standards claim with the Ministry of Labour.
This survey demonstrates how urgently we need to address the growing crisis of wage theft. Workers with little or no savings may be forced to use credit at high interest when wages are late or go unpaid. Low-wage workers may have to make up for unpaid wages by working longer hours or at a second job. Working long hours and the stress generated through financial woes have significant health and social costs for workers, families and communities.
Without immediate action, more and more workers will be pushed into financial crisis when wages go unpaid. We need legislative change to ensure workers are paid for their work, and are protected against wage theft.