Friday, June 19, 2015

More On The Precariat

In yesterday's post, I wrote about Angel Reyes, the 61-year-old member of the precariat terminated from his five-year 'temp' job at a recycling company one week after speaking to The Star about his inability to secure a full-time designation for the work he was doing, which meant that he was paid minimum wage while those classified as permanent at the plant made much more.

Unfortunately, Reyes is but one of many unable to escape the cycle of poverty and uncertain work, a situation aided and abetted by provincial regulations that seem to pay obeisance to the business imperative, an imperative that enhances corporate profits while exploiting workers.

Consider these facts:
Ontario’s low-wage work force has skyrocketed by 94 percent over the past two decades, compared with just 30 percent growth in total employment, according to a new report.

It shows that 40 percent of low-wage employees are saddled with unpredictable shifts, and the overwhelming majority do not get paid when they need time off.
The report, compiled by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives,
shows that the share of Ontario workers labouring for the minimum wage is now five times higher than in 1997. It rose from less than 3 per cent of all employees to about 12 per cent in 2014.

The share of low-paid work has also ballooned: almost a third of all employees in the province are now making within $4 of the minimum wage, compared with less than 20 per cent of the workforce in 1997.

And while more than half of all minimum-wage workers are still young people, most of those making less than $15 an hour are 25 or older.
Add to that these sobering statistics:

50.5: Percentage of Ontario employees working less than 40 hours a week

29.4: Percentage of Ontario workers who are low-wage

6.7: Percentage of employees unionized in private-sector businesses with fewer than 20 people

23.7: Percentage of employees unionized in workplaces with 500 or more people

The human face is all-important in truly coming to grips with these statistics. Responding to the above are two Star readers:

Re: Ontario's ‘eye-popping' shift to low-wage work, June 15
This is the second article I’ve read recently about low-wage workers in Ontario becoming the norm. I’m one of those folks. I went from full-time decent pay to part time (15 hours a week) at barely more than minimum wage. Why? Downsizing, loss of work, poorly managed companies. Yet the upper executives and company owners suffering is little to non-existent.

And I have been doing all I can to change that in the last six years by taking college courses. Now, at 50, I feel stuck, marginalized and depressed that there is no way out.

I see my government care less for those who support the infrastructure and more for those in the 1 per cent. How do we fix this? I don’t know, but something needs to change and none of the parties seems to care or have a plan or even address this issue in meaningful ways.

Janet Swainston, Cambridge
Anyone even remotely surprised by the tone of this article clearly hasn’t been paying attention these last 20-odd years. Corporate taxes were slashed, ostensibly to increase profits and free up monies for research and more jobs. That didn’t happen. Jobs have been outsourced and wages have dwindled.

Companies now hire contract employees who are responsible for paying their own taxes, EI, etc. Their continued employment is subject to the whims of their employer.

This is all backed by complicit governments whose sole economic plan seems to be that if they cut corporate taxes it will trickle down to the citizenry.

Escalating corporate bonuses have put to rest the bromide that “when times get tight we must all tighten our belts.” Translation: “You tighten your belts while we loosen ours.”

John Dickie, Toronto


  1. After university, I worked in a minimum wage job in a record store (there were not many employment adverts such as 'Require person with knowledge of literature, music, philosophy and physics'.

    Six months into the job, the manager told me that I was receiving a ten cent raise above minimum wage. I laughed. "What are you laughing about? You're lucky to receive anything at all." they said. I laughed again. But somebody, somewhere in the company, was making a lot of money exploiting people.

    I agree with Ms Swainston, above - '...something needs to change....'.

    1. Your experience mirrors that of increasing numbers, Anon. Thanks for the link. A great and most pertinent choice!