This year Labour Day coincides with the official start of the Ontario provincial election campaign. September 5th, union members will be celebrating labour history and their hopes for the future of our working lives. It’s a time for all of us in Ontario to think about what kind of labour market we should build. And, what we should ask politicians when they come to our doors asking for our votes.
The labour market policies the next Ontario government puts into place will affect our health. Our jobs affect us through the income we draw and the physical or psychological strain of our job. Jobs that pay better contribute to a longer life. Jobs with more autonomy are conducive to better health, and dangerous, tense work environments are bad for our health.
But our jobs and workplaces are only a piece of the puzzle of how our work affects our health. Government policies that determine how much power we have when we negotiate with our employers, and whether we would be eligible for income support if we lose our jobs, also have an impact on our health. The WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health developed a model outlining how these institutional factors have an impact on our health. Link
The Wellesley Institute, in partnership with the Metcalf and Atkinson foundations, has brought together thought leaders, practitioners and researchers to envision, in a pragmatic and practical way, 21st century labour market policies for Ontario. What grew from these discussions were a clear set of labour market policy proposals focused on workforce development and labour market regulation. These ideas are aimed at reducing labour market poverty. Implementing these policy changes would contribute to a healthier and more equitable Ontario. These ideas were developed in six short papers on each topic
Go to the Talking About Jobs website to read them, and to see a list of questions for candidates (also pasted below); an animated power point presentation; and an illustrated leaflet summarizing these ideas. Community meetings were held in Kitchener Waterloo, Owen Sound, Hamilton and London.
When thinking about Labour Day this year, consider the way that your work, and the work of people in your community could be supported by the next government .. There is a lot we can do in Ontario to make bad jobs better and to help Ontarians move their way into good jobs.
All-candidates questions for ‘Talking about Jobs’
1. Since the 2008 recession, there has been much discussion of the number of jobs and less about the quality of jobs being created. If you are elected, how will your party encourage the private sector to create good jobs (full-time, permanent positions that can support a family) for Ontarians?
2. Everyone from the Conference Board of Canada to the Ontario Literacy Council Coalition agrees on the value of workplace-based learning in improving health and safety, productivity and job mobility for workers. Will your party commit to funding partnerships for workplace-based learning and job mobility opportunities? How will your party invest in the professional development of Ontario’s current and future workforce?
3. We have all heard disturbing stories of internationally trained doctors and engineers driving taxis when there is a shortage of these professionals. Can you describe how your party’s policies on skills training will help internationally trained professionals transition into the workforce and maximize their contribution to Ontario’s economy? What obstacles do you anticipate and how will your party address them if they form government?
4. Ontario has the greatest number of migrant workers of all Canadian provinces; in 2009, we had 94,750 migrant workers – an increase of nearly 32 percent from 2006. However, media reports of migrant workers being exploited for low or unpaid wages or abused at the hands of employers and recruiters have become common in the last few years. If you are elected, what will your party do to protect migrant workers from workplace abuse and exploitation?
5. The Employment Standards Act (ESA) was created as a safety net for all Ontario workers. Those who are in precarious employment and low wage positions depend on the ESA for protection. Unfortunately, this outdated legislation often fails to protect vulnerable workers from violations like thousands of dollars of unpaid wages. How can the ESA be updated and better enforced to ensure all workers in Ontario are protected?
6. Unions provide the opportunity for workers to turn poorly paid, dangerous jobs into good jobs with better pay, hours and benefits. Research shows that unions decrease income inequality. However, changes in the labour market and government policy have made it harder to join a union, especially for vulnerable workers who need the protection of a union the most. How would your party amend the Labour Relations Act to better facilitate a worker’s right to organize and join unions?
7. Since 2000, economists have attributed Ontario’s low productivity growth to a mismatch between skills available in the labour force and the skills required by new jobs. This gap has stunted Ontario’s economic growth while contributing to greater poverty and social disparity. Will your party provide funding for a provincial workforce development strategy that promotes coordinated local economic and social development?
(this blog is cross-posted with www.talkingaboutjobs.ca)