Fighting the Rise in Precarious Work

December 5, 2009, 1:37 PM EST

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CAW Council delegates unanimously endorsed a resolution that aims to expand union efforts to fight the rise of precarious jobs in Canada - jobs that are often characterized as insecure, low-paid and unstable.

Delegates representing workers across a wide-range of sectors in the union spoke on the recommendation, many sharing direct experiences of precarious work in their workplaces.

CAW Local 444 President Rick Laporte said he has witnessed a sharp increase in low-paying part-time, temporary and contract jobs in his home community of Windsor, Ontario following the loss of good jobs in the auto sector and its supplier industries.

"Windsor has the highest unemployment rate in the country and local workers are threatened with precarious work," Laporte said.

Cammie Peirce, coordinator of the Brampton Chrysler Action Centre, who works directly with laid-off CAW members providing job search training and support services, told delegates that there are few opportunities for workers to land jobs on par with those in the manufacturing sector.

"Jobs today deliver a lifestyle of insecurity and struggle," Peirce said, noting that its increasingly common for workers to be forced to take on two or three jobs to make ends meet.

The resolution commits delegates to fight precarious work by strengthening links with laid off CAW members and unemployed workers through Action Centres and other initiatives. It also calls for a bargaining agenda to resist precarious work, pressure on government to adopt stronger wage and benefit regulations, and to organize around the upcoming G20 summit to demand economic and social policies that promote good jobs.

Council delegates also committed to build and strengthen strong community alliances, to campaign for higher minimum wage laws, better regulation for temporary work agencies and improvements to EI and social assistance.

"No province in Canada has a poorer track record on work standards than British Columbia," said CAW B.C. Area Director Susan Spratt. "The campaign to raise the provincial minimum wage to $10 per hour is a critical fight we must win in the face of rising precariousness."

In a presentation to delegates, Deena Ladd, coordinator of the Toronto-based Workers Action Centre, said the fight against precarious work is fundamentally about fighting a race to the bottom.

"Almost 40 per cent of workers in Canada today are in precarious employment," Ladd said.

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