Desperately needed labour reform measures fall short for temporary, contract workers. New report backs stronger role for unions.

The Government of Ontario could do more for almost half of Toronto’s workers who deal with precarious work, including temporary and contract workers, a new report says.

The report, released today by Social Planning Toronto, focuses on the benefits that unionization provides for precarious workers, and follows Queen’s Park’s announcement committing to changes to the Employment Standards Act and Labour Relations Act. The new changes will include a $15 minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, and personal emergency leave provisions, but only extends one-step card-based certification to some workers, and provides no changes to allow workers to organize across their sector.

“Almost half of working Torontonians struggle with short-term employment, casual work and other forms of precarious work”, said Sean Meagher, Executive Director of Social Planning Toronto. “This research finds that organizing into a union is an important step in creating more stable, secure employment, which is a growing challenge for Toronto residents”.

The report, which analyzed the experience of more than 2,700 Toronto workers, finds that among precarious workers, those who are unionized workers are more likely to have a pension, benefits, paid time off, and higher and more stable income.

The proposed changes, which respond to the government’s ‘Changing Workplaces Review’ report, include one-step certification for unions, but only for home care and community services workers, people in the building services sector, and those who work through temp agencies—a small fraction of Ontario’s workforce.

“It’s an important step forward that sectors of low-paid workers like home care workers, cleaners, and community service workers will be able to organize into unions more easily.” said Deena Ladd, Co-ordinator of the Workers Action Centre. “That same right needs to be extended to all workers, especially those in precarious work”.

“It doesn’t make sense to make organizing a union easier for an office cleaner, but not for a restaurant or retail worker”, said David Sanders of the trade union UNITE HERE. “In the age of growing part-time, precarious work, we should be making it easier for all workers to join unions”.

The government is expected to debate the legislation they have tabled in the fall to incorporate the announced changes. The Union Advantage report is based on research as part of the Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario (PEPSO) project.

» Read the report

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