What a difference a pandemic makes, huh? For years now, there’s been a grand debate about whether service industry workers deserve a living wage, whether or not they should be able to access employer benefits, and if we need to change our assumptions about the quality of work provided by mostly minimum wage employees at our retailers, grocery stores, and restaurants. Now, these are the people who are keeping our economy a float.
On this week’s podcast, we will consider the new reality for the workers we’ve always thought on the bottom rung of the economy. In fact, local Walmart and Zehrs stores are practically begging for people to come and work for them on a temporary basis to cope with the high demand, and these famously stingy outlets are now paying a premium for labour with higher wages, more safety, and even, in a few cases, childcare.
It’s quite the turnaround from the outrage heard when the previous Ontario government increased the minimum wage to $15, a move that was later undone by the current government. It took a pandemic, but many of those workers are now making a living wage, and if you’ve visited an essential grocery store in the last three weeks, then you probably talked to someone represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). Getting a living wage for all their workers has been a long-term goal.
But will it last? After COVID-19 has passed, will the businesses in question try to repeal the gains given to their employees in this time of crisis, or has the paradigm changed forever? Debora De Angelis, the Ontario Regional Director of UFCW, will answer those questions, and talk about how she’s been working with employers and different levels of government to make sure that workers are protected in these extraordinary circumstances. She also discusses her concerns for workers right now, and the important message she wants workers and employers to hear in these difficult, unprecedented times.
So let’s talk about the current state of affairs for our newly essential work force on this week’s edition of the Guelph Politicast!
You can visit the UFCW website to learn more about their advocacy, and to find resources about your rights as a worker. Remember that you have the right to feel safe and secure at work, and if you have a complaint that you can’t resolve with your employer, and you aren’t represented by a union, you can always talk to the Ministry of Labour online, or by calling the Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008.
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