Ontario must toughen law to protect temporary workers: Editorial

September 12, 2017
Article Source
Toronto Star

From a Toronto Star editorial: Just over a year ago, Amina Diaby, a temp agency employee working at Toronto's Fiera Foods, died tragically on the job. Her hijab got caught in a machine, strangling her.

She was the third temp agency worker to die at a factory owned by Fiera Foods or one of its affiliated companies since 1999.

As a result of Diaby's death Fiera now faces charges in court on Thursday under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to make sure that loose clothing was not worn near a "source of entanglement." Her death is also being investigated by Toronto police.

While nothing has been proven in court, and no charges have been laid by police, Diaby's death highlights what critics say are flaws in the Ontario government’s new labour legislation, Bill 148.

The bill is in many ways a leap forward for worker protections in the province, but as Diaby's case makes clear, it could be better. The measures it contains to improve working conditions for the province's growing number of temporary workers, for instance, should be tougher – much tougher.

For example, as highlighted in reporting over the weekend by the Star's Sara Mojtehedzadeh and Brendan Kennedy, as it stands now hiring through temp agencies limits companies' liability for accidents on the job, reduces their responsibility for making sure that employees' legal rights are respected, and cuts costs — all at the expense of workers' safety and earnings. 

The legislation now before the Ontario legislature does not address these concerns. As a result, the growing trend toward hiring temp workers — creating an increase in precarious work — may continue unabated.

Temporary jobs — which include but are not limited to temp agency jobs — have grown at more than four times the rate of permanent jobs since the 2008 recession, according to Statistics Canada. In food manufacturing, for example, temp jobs have boomed by 110 per cent in Toronto in the past 10 years while permanent ones have increased by less than 3 per cent. 

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