By Graeme MacKay, Editorial Cartoonist, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday June 19, 2015
Ontario’s ‘eye-popping’ shift to low-wage work
It’s one of the most excruciating decisions single mom Jodi Dean has ever made: choosing between the unpredictable, $13-an-hour job her family relied on, and taking care of her chronically ill daughter.
“It (made) me physically ill with the stress,” Dean said. “I needed that job to provide for my children.”
Welcome to the new normal for families across the province: low salaries, erratic schedules, dwindling hours, unpaid leave and constant stress.
Ontario’s low-wage work force has skyrocketed by 94 percent over the past two decades, compared with just 30 percent growth in total employment, according to a new report.
‘Clearly, people need more predictability both in their schedules and in their incomes’
In one of the few province-wide studies of precarious employment, the research details an “eye-popping” shift toward poorly paid, non-unionized work across Ontario.
It shows that 40 percent of low-wage employees are saddled with unpredictable shifts, and the overwhelming majority do not get paid when they need time off.
That reality, the report argues, calls for sweeping changes to the province’s employment and labour laws, whose many loopholes have been detailed by the Star and are currently the subject of government review.
“Clearly, people need more predictability both in their schedules and in their incomes,” added Sheila Block, a senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and author of the study.
The research compiled by the left-leaning think tank shows that the share of Ontario workers labouring for the minimum wage is now five times higher than in 1997. It rose from less than 3 per cent of all employees to about 12 per cent in 2014.
The share of low-paid work has also ballooned: almost a third of all employees in the province are now making within $4 of the minimum wage, compared with less than 20 per cent of the workforce in 1997.
And while more than half of all minimum-wage workers are still young people, most of those making less than $15 an hour are 25 or older. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)