Brantford City Council takes stand against worst type of precarious work – temp agencies

Roderick Benns

Brantford City Council will ban the use of temporary staffing agencies, the first such stand to be taken in Ontario.

Led by Councillor Brian Van Tilborg and unanimously passed by all council members, the City is also urging the Province to make changes to provincial labour laws that govern the use of temporary workers.

Councillor John Sless, who supported the motion, says temp agencies “are feeding off folks who are easy prey.”

He says there are two significant issues with temp workers – those who seem to be in ‘long-term temp jobs’ – a contradiction in terms — and those who are constantly shifting from one job to another.

“There are companies in this city who have had temp people working there for years. That’s not temporary — and that’s not right. It’s eroding people’s quality of life,” says Sless.

On the other hand, the councillor says shifting from one job site to another, multiple times per week is not right either.

“It’s ludicrous to keep people in that position. It’s not right when they’re trying to pay their rent, buy food, and clothe their kids. They will never get any benefits, never know when they’re going to be working. It’s no real way to live their life,” says Sless.

The councillor compares temp agencies to payday loan operations, “which get people in a rut they can’t get out of.”

“You could borrow more cheaply from the mafia,” says Sless.

Regulation Needed

Sless says the whole intent of Brantford’s resolution was not to ban temp employment agencies, but to seek that they are regulated from the Province.

“The thing is, they’re not breaking any labour laws. It’s a lucrative operation,” he says, and that’s why Ontario needs to step in.

The councillor says other municipalities may choose to make the same kind of stand, which would add more voices to the cause.

“It could happen in other municipalities and that would add to the conversation. Getting more of them (municipalities) on board certainly makes a strong case — and it’s a pretty easy case to make,” says Sless.

“The overwhelming majority are people who want a full time job and who are getting trapped in a bad system. Working Monday here, Tuesday there, off one day and maybe hour to hour somewhere else – it’s just not right.”

Basic Income Guarantee

Sless, who chairs Brantford’s social services committee, says he also believes in exploring a basic income guarantee policy. A basic income would ensure no one ever drops below the poverty line, regardless of work status.

It’s also considered a great policy for the rise in precarious work across Canada, to prevent people from falling below the poverty line. Ontario will begin a pilot project to test a basic income beginning this year.

“We (Brantford) offered ourselves as a possible pilot location. It’s an idea definitely worth exploring.”

This article was originally published in the Precarious Work Chronicle.