Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Age of the Disposable Worker

On this blog I frequently lament the fact that we live in the age of the fungible worker, the one who is easily exchanged for another should his or her expectations of decent wages and working conditions threaten to impede the flow of easy profits accruing to corporate coffers. It is happening abroad, an example evident in the declining fortunes of China, which has seen wages rising, resulting in multi-nationals shifting their production to lower-wage regimes; we see it in North America, with manufacturers closing up shop to relocate in jurisdictions with more lax labour regulations, the Caterpillar closing being one of the more recent and egregious examples in Canada.

But as bad as corporate indifference to workers' fates may be, there is an entirely distinct class of workers for whom Canada as a nation shows little but withering contempt: the migrant worker, the people we import from places like Jamaica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, to do the work we refuse to do - agriculture labour such as picking tobacco and fruit and vegetables. As bucolic as such endeavours may sound, they are often fraught with danger, but even when the unthinkable happens, workers and their loved ones are not extended the kinds of protections that Canadians enjoy, an example being the right to inquests into deaths that occur on the job.

Such was the case with Ned Peart, a Jamaican worker brought to Ontario through the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, [who] died in 2002 after a tobacco bin fell and crushed him at a farm near Brantford. When the Office of the Chief Coroner refused to hold an inquest, Mr. Peart’s family lodged a human-rights complaint in the hopes of catalyzing broader legislative reforms.

Watch the video below and see if you can avoid the natural distaste that arises when such obvious injustice occurs:


  1. The temporary workers program essentially re-establishes the medieval relationship between lord and vassal, Lorne.

    If given their way, our present masters will turn back the clock to the Dark Ages.

    1. Traditionalists that they are, contemporary right-wingers must pine longingly for 'the good old days,' Owen, where everyone knew their place. I'm sure that they are intent on reestablishing what they see as 'the natural order.'

  2. It is not just the migrants amd temp foreign workers getting done.
    Just look up the WCB horror stories than have been perpetrated against our home-grown disposable employees.
    You have to know that as soon as our corporations started calling people "Human Resources" workers ceased to be regarded as people.

    1. That's a very good point Dan. Every year in April when workers who have died or been severely injured on the job are mourned, we are reminded of the insatiable appetites of business and its unwillingness to make the workplace safer for our all employees.