Comment 30502

By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted April 25, 2009 at 17:16:49

A Smith: My work



I am the Chair of the Temp Workers Rights/Action Group from Hamilton, Ontario. We are a grassroots group that is dedicated to advocating for changes to the Employment Standards Act, to improve the lives of those workers trapped in an never ending cycle of poverty and despair. They say that one must walk a mile in another's shoes to truly understand their path, so, we are here today, to try and bring a human face to the policy of Elect to Work and how this policy has infringed on a Worker's, Human and Labour Rights. It is important that as part of a poverty reduction strategy, that this committee must give equal weight to the voices of the workers, in this policy change initiative.

Background: Where is the Justice? Where is the Protection?

A worker accepted a job assignment with a local temp company that was to cover a maternity leave with a sub contractor of the City of Hamilton. The City of Hamilton has a zero tolerance policy for violence which one would think it would cover workplace bullying but for, the temp worker, there was no protection. It was the second call made to the temp company,where the supervisor had ordered the worker to do a pay cheque that was in violation of the contract through collective bargaining. Not only was the worker terminated but the temp company refused to send the worker out an any other assignments and after six months of repeated requests, this person was still fighting to obtain their Record of Employment in order to access EI benefits. It was at this time that the individual had to apply for Ontario Works and it is unacceptable policy that the onus is put on the worker to produce the document and not the temp company that has violated federal statutes around the issuance of a Record of Employment, and one can find very clear language on this on the HRDC website.

A worker found themseves again unemployed from a temp assignment. This time it is was an issue of training, which clearly was not the fault of the worker but of both the temp agency and the client company, however it was the worker that paid the consequences. The worker was terminated and no given new assignments. What if the training was a Health and Safety Issue? Under Section 9 (2)(a), of the Occupational Health and safety Act, workers are required to have a Joint Health and Safety Committee, in a workplace that has 20 or more full time employees. It is essential that there should be clear language as to the definition of a fulltime employee Who has the responsibiliy, the temp agency or the client company on issues of Occupational Health and Safety? The temp companies could have 20 or more people working at long term assignments, they could be deemed as fulltime employees thus be entitled to a Joint Health and Safety Committee.

After researching public holiday policy under the Act, I knew that a probation period was non existant and that the type of work I would be accessing would not be considered as exempt to public holiday pay. I applied for a job posting at a temp company. I did not signed the line on the application, that stated that I would not be entitled to Statuatory Holiday pay for three months, a probationary period. The representative questioned me about the fact that I had not signed and I replied that I would like a ruling from the Ministry of Labour on this issue. The temp company representative stated that this was company policy and I replied, well that may be company policy, but under the Act, there was no probation period and that I have a right to have a ruling from the MInistry. I did not even get the chance to gain access to this job posting and given my experience, I wonder, how many other workers out there who try to stand up for their rights are essentially blacklisted to any job opportunities?

The need for reform:

I think it is important to remember the many workers who stood and died for fairness and justice in the workplace. They fought for health and safety, benefits, the number of hours to be worked, overtime, pensions, severance and termination pay, vacation and sick days. It is very unfair that approximately 37 percent of all workers today are denied many of the rights that workers fought and died for. I have to ask myself where is the fairness and justice when a temp company charges a $20.00 a day fee for transportation from a worker who is earning minimum wage? A worker earning minimum wage at 40 hrs a week, would have a take home pay of around $1200.00 every 4 weeks. It seems to me that $400.00 for tranportation is very excessive, this cost would bring your take home down to $800.00 every 4 weeks. That is not much to live on, to find shelter, food and personal items.

I will leave you with this last story, in a hope that it touches your heart, A young worker in my community, who supported themselves, had the same temp assignment for over a year. This person faithfully and diligently went to work. One day, this person had a family emergency and called in and explained the situation. This worker was fired, terminated, no notice, no termination pay. This worker had to fight for EI benefits and was denied, as the worker had no representation, no union or worker representative at the Board of Referees hearing. The worker then had to apply for Ontario Works, which for a single person is less then $600.00 per month and under Ontario Works the worker now falls under workfare policies which also deny workers their rights under Employment Standards. Can someone please explain what this young person did, that was so wrong to be thrown into the depths of abject poverty? Who is standing up for their rights?

Bill 139 needs to make sure that temp agency workers have the same right to family emergency leave that other workers get. Temp workers need to be able to take family emergency leave without losing their income, their job, their dignity.

Bill 139 needs to be improved to make sure we have the same rights and protections as other workers to termination pay and all employment standards rights.

I look around me in Hamilton. People are losing jobs. What do they have to look forward to? Temp work. Low pay, no job stability, no security. Bill 139 should make sure we don't get stuck in temp work. We need to be able to get permanent jobs with protection. Agencies should not be allowed to put up barriers to permanent work.

I urge that all of you think of the workers that struggle as you deliberate this bill. Workers need protection and they need to be treated fairly. The government needs to be committed to ensure that there are laws to protect the workers and that those laws will be enforced. Please take a bold step forward and change the law to ensure that those workers who are the most marginalized have a voice in their battle to be treated fairly and with dignity. These workers deserve a have their voices heard.

Thank you

Chair Temp Workers Rights/Action Group



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