A series of government “blitz” investigations found that the vast majority of employers in Ontario are violating the Employment Standards Act. In 78% of the 304 workplaces investigated in January, workers were forced to work illegally long hours, were denied overtime and holiday pay, and went without vacations or “pay in lieu”. All of these represent exploitation of the workers – and an increase in profits for the owners – above and beyond what the state feebly lays out at the minimum acceptable conditions for employment.
An additional “blitz” was carried out to investigate temp agencies, who prey on the desperation of unemployed workers to reap huge returns at their expense, found that 75% of these bloodsuckers also violated labour law. This should come as no great shock, but it is important to note that as work becomes more and more precarious, agencies like these will become more and more common.
When workers try to appeal to the government on their own to fix these problems, they are faced with another set of obstacles designed to keep them from pursuing their complaints in the first place, much less winning them. Workers are routinely fired for bringing violations to the attention of the Ministry of Labour, and when they are the process to appeal to the government to get their jobs back can take years – it’s clear this process is far beyond the reach of the majority of workers in the province, and is designed to keep things running the way the bosses want them to.
It may appear as though the government is taking a proactive approach to rooting out these problems and solving them, but the reality is that even if the 238 workplaces with violations corrected their practices immediately, it would only be a drop in the bucket and the whole economy would continue to grind forward as usual, squeezing workers past the breaking point in order to secure a good return on investment.
When the majority of companies in the province can’t operate profitably without violating even the poor minimum conditions laid out in labour law, it’s clear that the system of production for profit itself – the capitalist system – is the enemy of workers. Of course, the Ontario government will never admit this, much less act to change it, and so its up to us, the working class, to do away with this rotten system once and for all using the most powerful tool at our disposal: revolution.
The Partisan is a free newspaper ______________________ Jul 15th, 2016 ___
The Revolutionary Workers’ Movement of Hamilton has launched a new initiative which aims to defend the direct, day-to-day interests of Hamilton’s workers. The Steel City Workers’ Defence Network will use solidarity and direct action to fight issues like wage-theft, unjust firings, sexual harassment, stealing tips, unpaid training, and others.
“The idea is this: there are far more of us workers than there are bosses. And so when we stand together, we have all the power,” said one of the organizers.
Revolutionary Workers’ Movement organizers will be putting up posters with details and contact information around Hamilton. They hope that disgruntled workers will see the advertisements, and get in touch with them. The Revolutionary Workers’ Movement will then meet with the worker, assess the situation, and figure out how best to help.
Similar initiatives have been successful in other cities across Ontario. Organizers in Ottawa have been successful in getting workers their stolen wages back, and in Kitchener-Waterloo efforts have extended even to fighting slum landlords.
“Workers in Hamilton are no less in need of a means of collectively fighting back against the many injustices we face as we try and get by. But unfortunately, right now there isn’t a way for workers to do so, especially if they’re not unionized. We hope to change that.”
For more information, contact RevolutionaryWorkersHamilton@gmail.com or call 289-382-9632.
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