Category Archives: Precarious Employment

Community-level Training: Reflection from a Community Action Leader

Who doesn’t know that organizing and mobilizing a community is hard work? This already difficult task becomes even more difficult when the target audience is a community of individuals who are engaged in precarious employment. Precarious employment is a form of non-standard employment that denies employees their full rights, allowing for conditions of unstable work, low or minimum wages, poor working conditions, a lack of social benefits, and more. Additionally, precarious employment disallows individuals from having fixed work shifts. Thus, when organizing a Community Training Workshop on “Understanding Precarious Employment, Rights, and Civic Engagement”, many members of this community were unable to attend the workshop due to last-minute demanded changes to their work schedules by their employers. As this was the first workshop I was facilitating on the topic, I became frustrated after counting the low number of participants present. Unsure if some of the confirmed participants were just late, we waited a while to see if more participants joined, but we remained the same in numbers.

However, it didn’t take me long to realize that having a smaller number of participants attend is not all that bad… It has some advantages too. As soon as we began the workshop, I recognized that having a smaller workshop allows for more engagement in dialogue from participants. Participants were very active in sharing their experiences and thoughts regarding precarious work, allowing for commonalities to be found between participants’ experience even though they work in different employment sectors. Every participant experienced uncertainty in work shift hours, held a low or minimum-wage job, had no paid sick leave, no vacation leave, no job- security, and experienced discrimination. Participants understood the impact of precarious work on their health and discussed how they could communicate health issues induced or worsened by their precarious employment with their doctors. They also discussed how they could engage with the decent work and fair wage movement to raise their voice and influence policy.

Among many other critical discussions, one of the issues argued during the session was ‘equal pay for equal work’. This principle calls for policy changes that ensure temporary or part-time workers doing the same work as full-time permanent workers are paid equally. One participant questioned why employers should pay the same wage to temporary workers if temporary workers do not have same the responsibility and accountability as permanent workers. The most uniformed answer was that when employers recruit a temporary worker to complete the same work as a permanent worker, the employer expects the temporary worker to hold the same responsibility and accountability as well. Therefore, employers should pay the same wage to temporary workers as they pay permanent workers who complete similar work. Through further discussion, it became clear that it is newcomers who often fall victim to this inequitable, racist, and discriminatory practice.

All in all, participants of the workshop provided feedback that the information and material provided were useful to their interest to advocate for change at a policy-level. They were happy with the visual materials and the manner in which Maisah Syed and I organized and facilitated the workshop. In fact, it would be incomplete if I do not mention how much I enjoyed organizing the event. From managing schedules, ordering catering, and doing the appropriate research and preparation for this event, Maisah and I were able to share responsibilities as well as grow and learn through the process.

It is always a great initiative to train and motivate members of a community to fight for their own cause. The participants who attended this workshop proved yet again that through community mobilization to engage with policy makers and changers such as MPPs, change can be achieved. Today, I can happily report that our consolidated efforts with the community has contributed to changes to the current Employment Standards Act (2000), which would ensure that temporary help agency workers are paid equally to their permanent employee counterparts for completing the same work.


Written by Mohammad Sarker.
Mohammad Sarker is a Community Action Leader of Promoting Good Jobs Project of Access Alliance. He has written this paper to share his experience about the Training held at 90 Mornelle Court Community Hub, Scarborough on April 30, 2017.

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Bad Jobs are Making our Children Sick

johannaimmageBy Johanna Ysselstein, Pediatric Registered Nurse, Masters of Public Health student at Access Alliance

Bad jobs are making us sick; temporary jobs, jobs without legal protection, and jobs without security. Often referred to as precarious work, or non-standard employment, these include part-time and contract-based, ‘temp agency,’ on call and split shift jobs. Many of these job types have unpredictable work hours, lack standard benefits (such as sick leave) and have little or no extended benefit coverage (i.e. for prescription medicine).

Why is this important to talk about?

There is growing evidence that these types of precarious, non-standard types of employment are on the rise in Canada. A recent report, “Its more than Poverty” found that 40% of employees in the GTA work in precarious jobs. Being sucked into precarious jobs can have damaging health impacts including depression, digestive problems, musculoskeletal ailments, heart disease and diabetes. This is because these types of jobs cause high levels of stress on the economic security and health of families. Research conducted by Access Alliance shows that employment precarity not only affects workers but also the overall household wellbeing, to the extent that their children also feel damaging health impacts.

Income and employment are strong determinants of health. Job insecurity combined with income insecurity means that precariously employed families are at high risk of facing food insecurity, housing insecurity and reduced access to essential services. Research has also shown that children who experience poverty are at higher risk of encountering health problems, developmental delays and behavior disorders. They are also more likely to fall into the poverty trap themselves in adulthood. Not having flexible or predictable employment has further detrimental effects because families have less free time to spend together, impacting positive familial relationships and bonding experiences.

“Not having enough money, not being able to afford healthy food… Does affect me and causes weakness overall in the body… And because of financial insecurity from job and income is not enough so that stresses me… Affects my behavior towards my children and causes conflict and argument with my wife… That gets transferred to children and they also express their tensions in terms of anger…”– Daruun Sharma, Focus Group Participant in Where are the Good Jobs?

Daruun Sharma & his wife, like many other new families to Canada have faced difficulty finding meaningful, adequate paying, stable employment, which has made it difficult to afford suitable and flexible childcare arrangements, among other things. One of the most significant barriers for precariously employed parents that prevents them from improving their career situation is the unaffordable and inaccessible childcare. Affordable daycare and childcare for school aged children is vital for all families, but especially with precariously employed parents, since they experience the strongest economic burdens.

In 2012 Ontario had the highest average monthly fees for full-day care centers in all of Canada for both infants and toddlers (Quebec has the most affordable). That means that for precariously employed families with young children, childcare responsibilities can end up being very stressful.

However, in December 2013 the Government of Ontario proposed new legislation to address this in the “Child Care Modernization Act”. The purpose of the act is to distribute a balance between quality, affordability, safety and accessibility. The act proposes a flexible model and has the potential to reduce what parents/families pay in child care fees and subsidy costs for children up to age 6 years by approximately $3,500.

As this Act moves into possible regulation and law, my hope is that precariously employed families are able to access safe and flexible childcare options in their own communities at the right cost. This would help alleviate one barrier to better health and good employment that precariously employed family’s experience and eliminate one more obstacle that bad jobs put in their way.

Invisible Women: Are precarious jobs a sign of discriminatory treatment?

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Written by Yohani M., Volunteer Writer/Editor for Access Alliance

On March 20th, Access Alliance held the launch of a new report, “Like Wonder Women, Goddesses, and Robots,” which examines the social, occupational and labour market barriers that racialized immigrant women face in Canada. The report, a community-based research project, summarizes key findings and case studies of immigrant women stuck indefinitely in precarious employment. In the majority of cases, the participants were highly skilled, well qualified, and had left behind ambitious careers in their homelands for the promise of a better life. The reality—from the point of immigration—was far from it. Overworked and underpaid in temp, informal or contract work, and swept under the rug from public discourse, their stories bear likeness to one another in the grim consequences; social alienation, insomnia, depression. What the report identifies as the heart of the problem is the “institutionalization of racialized gendering of employment.” So what does this mean?

It means that immigrant women of ethnic minority groups have become widely associated with minimum wage low-skilled jobs. This in turn fuels the discriminatory assumption that they will readily absorb the rise of precarious employment, cushioning the rest of society by taking on work viewed as undesirable by racially dominant groups—babysitting, factory work, fast food services—work once associated with high-schoolers saving up for college has become an unquestioned and normalized view of racialized immigrant women. Despite their rapid swell in the population—over 60 percent of all women in Canada are immigrants, and 3.2 million nation-wide—the consistent lack of voice in labour market issues and policy-making has contributed to marginalizing them. Compared to their male counterparts, who often shed responsibility when it comes to running a household and child-raising, women often struggle alone.

The participants in the report identified three key barriers to stable employment: non-recognition of foreign qualifications, race-based discrimination, and limited access to professional networks. With such powerful structural barriers, it would take major adjustments on a social, occupational and governmental level to correct the system. In an equitable society, a highly skilled, experienced and qualified immigrant would have equal opportunity in career advancement to a local, irrespective of gender, race, or the name printed at the fore of a résumé. Having made huge sacrifices in the migratory process, no person should be cheated out of their dreams, especially those with abilities beyond Wonder-woman, goddesses, and robots.

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture, and transform.” – Diane Mariechild
Follow this link for the key findings and to download the full report

More about the project: Job-Skills Mismatch Among Racialized Immigrant Women

Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario (PEPSO)