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Policy brief

Protecting workers in a recession is important for a stronger economy

Published on 16/03/2009

Policy in Focus, Issue 7

Summary of Working on the Edge by the Workers’ Action Centre.

  • Today more than 37 percent of workers in Canada work part-time, on contract, work through temp agencies, or in self-employed situations.
  • The uncertainty they face in their jobs is augmented by the lack of enforcement of employment standards.
  • Surveys have found that 25 percent of employers are in widespread violation of labour laws and that 50 percent are in partial violation.
  • In most cases, the provinces are responsible for creating and enforcing labour laws that protect workers.
  • In Ontario, it is up to an individual worker to file a complaint with the Ministry of Labour. There are few workplace inspections even when more than one individual has filed a complaint against an employer.
  • Few employers are charged or fined.
  • It is important during the current economic crisis that labour laws are enforced. This will ensure that the brunt of the recession is not disproportionately carried by our poorest citizens.
  • Enforcing standards will also ensure that we recover from this crisis more quickly because high labour standards are associated with high performance economies.

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Employment and labour


Features research and recommendations on the content and enforcement of the Ontario Employment Standards Act, and its effects on workers.