Why decent jobs matter for a healthy Ontario

A new report launched today by Ryerson University provides new evidence on how precarious jobs are making our communities sicker. The report, “Working so hard, still so poor!”: A Public Health Crisis in the Making?, profiled by Toronto Star this morning should be a warning sign for every public policy maker.

The experiences of forty racialized women workers from personal service and food sectors are explored in-depth in the report. The conclusion? The precarious working conditions these women deal with put their mental and physical health at risk, as well as their safety at work and the health of the people they care for. Still, these issues are not unique to them. At the Workers’ Action Centre we hear from people everyday who call our hotline or come to our workshops, dealing with the exact problems.

The constant state of being on-call without pay, not knowing when your next shift is leads to serious illnesses. The lack of legislated paid sick days and job protected personal emergency leave means workers are going to work sick and not getting better. Meanwhile, temp agency workers can get hired to do jobs that are deemed too dangerous for the permanent employees. Similarly, the quality of care suffers in health care facilities where temp agency workers are forced to juggle impossible workloads and long hours.

These issues can grow into a huge health crisis if left untouched, however they have real decent work solutions! The report published today calls upon the government to urgently tackle the root of these problems by updating Ontario’s labour laws. The recommendations include legislating paid sick days, providing access to personal emergency leave, ensuring decent hours and fair schedules, introducing stronger enforcement as well as comprehensive reform of the temp agency industry.

The Special Advisors to the Ministry of Labour are currently drafting their final recommendations for the Changing Workplaces Review. As we stated in our submission to the Interim Report, now is the time for bold reforms! The health and prosperity of our families and neighbours depends on smart legislation that can ensure decent work for all.