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Why Ontario's Bill 148 on workplace reform is needed 
Posted (2017-09-09)

This is why workplace reform requires more than an increase in the minimum wage. Temp agencies are helping to drive down wages, increase inequality and drive up health and welfare costs.


Amina Diaby died last year in an accident inside one of the GTA’s largest industrial bakeries where, the company says, worker safety is its highest concern. The 23-year-old was one of thousands of Ontarians who have turned to temporary employment agencies to find jobs that often come with low pay and little training for sometimes dangerous work. The Star’s Sara Mojtehedzadeh went undercover for a month at the factory where Diaby worked.

By Sara Mojtehedzadeh and Brendan Kennedy

September 8, 2017

Some highlights …

  • Supervisors shout at us to wake up. They shout at us to move faster, pinch nicer, work harder. No one talks through the noise and exhaustion.
  • Fiera has also received some $4.7 million in government loans and grants to expand capacity and create good jobs. 
  • I get about five minutes of training in a factory packed with industrial equipment.
  • When a temp gets hurt, the company is not fully responsible because the temp agency assumes liability at the worker’s compensation board.
  • Over the past decade, the number of temp agency offices opening across Ontario has increased by 20 per cent, with some 1,700 operating in the GTA alone, statistics obtained by the Star show.
  • Temps are often paid less than permanent counterparts doing the same job, and sometimes work for long periods of time in supposedly “temporary” positions. 
  • The pay is $11.50 an hour, cash, 10 cents above minimum wage.
  • I will never meet anyone from the temp agency in person. As I will find out later, their offices do not even exist.
  • “Nobody likes this job,” she says in hesitant English. “But the money.”
  • Overall in Ontario, temporary jobs — which include but are not limited to temp agency jobs — have grown at more than four times the rate of permanent jobs since the 2008 recession, according to Statistics Canada. 
  • “most employers don’t treat temporary workers the way they treat their permanent employees — they don’t provide them with the training that is necessary.”
  • Even when they get hurt, many temp workers don’t file compensation claims because they are afraid of losing their job.
  • Claims suppression [by employers] was identified as an issue across all sectors in a 2013 study for the WSIB.
  • Despite the orders issued by the Ministry of Labour against Fiera Foods, it remains a model employer in the eyes of the WSIB. The repeated safety violations found by Ministry of Labour inspectors also don’t affect Fiera’s premiums.
  • Temp agency: “We don’t do records of employment, no job letters, and no pay stubs.”
  • We aren’t paid when we are sick. We aren’t told if we are working the weekend until the last minute. 
  • “They like to drain you in this Canada,” she [a recent immigrant] says.
  • “People do desperate things,” she says, “when they have no choice.”
  • “I am a human being,” she says. “Not a robot.”
  • Bill 148 won’t fix the situation at Fiera Foods.

David McLaren

Twitter: @JDavidMcLaren



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