Equal pay for equal work for temp workers

It’s always a pleasure to rise and speak on behalf of the people of Hamilton East–Stoney Creek. First, I’d like to thank both my colleague from Bramalea–Gore–Malton and my colleague from Welland for their dedication to workers’ rights, for their hard work on this motion and for bringing it forward today.

New Democrats always, and always will, fight to get Ontario workers better jobs, better wages and better benefits. Sadly, over the last few years, under the Premier’s watch, I’ve been hearing from more and more constituents about the anxiety and hardship that unstable work is causing them. Week to week, they don’t know if they have enough hours to pay the rent or if they’ll be working night shifts or day shifts. They’re worried that if they get sick, they’ll be fired or not called back.

Over 700,000 workers in Ontario are employed through temporary job agencies. Roughly 22% of the jobs in the province are characterized as precarious. Racialized workers experience disproportionately higher rates of precarious and temporary employment. People are being exploited left, right and centre.

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I had a constituent come into my office last month, struggling to make ends meet, who hadn’t been paid for 10 hours of hard work on a Saturday in an assembly facility. He is a temporary agency worker. He doesn’t know from one day to the next if he will be working or not. While he was on an assignment, his supervisor at the firm called him over and asked him if he could come back in for an extra day of work on Saturday. He anxiously agreed, but he didn’t know that the firm never told the agency, and neither of them will pay him. They haven’t created any records of him ever working. Ten hours of hard work, and not a penny to show for it: It’s outrageous, Speaker. Despite going to the Ministry of Labour, he hasn’t seen his money yet. That’s the reality of work in Ontario in 2017.

When it comes to workers’ rights in the province, the laws are very weak, the regulations are worse, and the enforcement is close to non-existent. We heard some of the stories about temporary workers at the press conference this morning. I hope the members from all parties were listening, because if you haven’t worked in that kind of environment—and a few of them have, I suppose—it’s almost impossible to understand it.

If you are a temp worker in this province, it’s hard to plan any future. Sometimes you can’t even sleep at night before you get worried about getting sick or unemployed. Every day you’re thinking, “Will I be called tomorrow or not?” When you are at work, you know that the person next to you doing the exact same job might be earning twice as much as you. I’ve met temp workers who made only half of what the permanent staff did in these environments. Not only is it demoralizing, demotivating and unfair; it’s absolutely, I think, illegal. The agency takes the other half of their money, and for what?

People working in this province should get equal pay for equal work: same job, same pay. If you work somewhere for months, even years, you should have the same protections, the same status and the same dignity as anyone else working at that same place for months or years.

It’s hard to get off the treadmill of agency work. The agencies don’t make it easy, and our laws keep it that way. Currently, in Ontario, agencies can charge client companies a hefty fee if they want to hire a temp within the first six months on the job. That’s a huge disincentive for hiring people on a permanent basis.

It’s time to end all of this treatment. We don’t have to accept this as the future of Ontario’s working families. No more unfair, unequal treatment of workers in this province. I encourage members of this House and all parties to support this motion, and I ask the government to implement it as soon as possible. Enough is enough, Speaker.

(Hansard: April 13, 2017)