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Harper presides over the growth of precarious work in Canada

Precarious work is on the rise in Canada and internationally.

This is a situation in which people face low wages, part-time, temporary or contract work, limited benefits, periods of unemployment, uncertainty and stress.

CBC reports, “The Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, often called the developed world’s think tank, describes this ugly phenomenon as the rise of the precariat — a play on the working-class proletariat and meaning those trapped in precarious lives with neither material nor psychological welfare.”

It highlights, “The reality is that many societies today, including the prosperous ones like Australia and Canada, face greater social inequality as the shift to a ‘hire and fire culture’ of temporary workers lowers the chances of those toiling on low wages to move up the economic ladder. …The ‘quality’ of Canadian employment — meaning less job security and fewer benefits — is currently at a 25-year low, 10 per cent below what it was in the 1990s… Even in the glittering horseshoe of Southern Ontario, barely half of working adults have full-time permanent jobs, and almost all job growth now seems only to expand the insecure work, the kind that has little prospect of outstripping inflation.”

In fact, a recent study released by McMaster University in Hamilton and United Way Toronto found that 44 per cent of working adults in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) are in jobs with some level of precariaty. Global News says, “The results of the survey also found that people in precarious jobs earn 51 per cent less than those in stable, secure work, and live in households with 38 per cent lower-income. The report states only 8 per cent of precarious workers have extended health benefits compared to 100 per cent of secure workers and that they are three times more likely to have to pay for their own training.”

A recent United Nations study found that 200 million people worldwide are jobless, 30 million more than at the height of the global recession in 2008. CBC notes, “Another scary fact the study unearths is how many people these days have stable work contracts of any kind. That’s barely one in four of the globe’s workforce. The overwhelming majority of people on the planet struggle with temporary work, informal or illegal jobs, long spells of unemployment and unpaid family work.”

That article says, “The overwhelming majority of people on the planet struggle with temporary work, informal or illegal jobs, long spells of unemployment and unpaid family work. …As the UN report notes, mass unemployment and underemployment puts steady downward pressure on wages — along with increasing child labour, estimated conservatively at 73 million, many working in near slave conditions. The combined scourges of job insecurity and unlivable wages contribute to the quite unprecedented wave of the estimated 54 million global refugees, people attempting to escape both violence and destitution, many risking death at sea to avoid no-hope futures.”

While the Harper government doesn’t appear to be addressing this issue, the New Democrats are trying to move forward with legislation on it.

In 2013, NDP MP Andrew Cash proposed Bill C-542, the Urban Workers Strategy Act. In May, it was submitted for its second reading in the House of Commons. Rabble.ca reports, “Cash says that he prefers the term urban workers because it encapsulates a broad spectrum of people, including those who have chosen to freelance, and those who have no choice but who may not necessarily think to identify themselves as precarious workers. …The bill proposes to strike a task force of federal ministers who would consult with provincial and territorial governments as well as stake holders affected by the bill, such as organized labour. The aim would be to then develop a comprehensive strategy that would grant urban workers greater access to social support mechanisms and basic labour standards.”

As much as the Harper government wants to position itself as ‘able fiscal managers’, it is not delivering an economy that offers secure employment.

It may not even be delivering an economy that is keeping up with the rest of the world. Last October, the Toronto Star reported, “The [International Monetary Fund] now expects global growth to average 3.3 per cent in 2014 and rise to 3.8 per cent for 2015. …By contrast, the Canadian economy is expected to expand by 2.3 per cent this year and 2.4 per cent in 2015, the IMF said.”

The Council of Canadians will be watching this issue, particularly at the upcoming G7 summit that Harper is attending in Germany this June 7-8. Council of Canadians chapters in London, Peterborough-Kawarthas and Surrey-Langley-White Rock have also been actively recently calling for a $15 minimum wage.

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