The Toronto Star recently did an expose on the practices of a temporary help agency and a company that hired temporary workers.
The Star raised important points regarding the role and treatment of workers. It focused on temporary workers and described the working conditions for those workers. We don’t doubt or argue with their findings. In fact, The Star has performed a public service in bringing this issue to the surface.
They are correct, there are organizations who find labour for companies that operate only on a cash basis without proper employment records, pay stubs, or without safety training and basic employment rights.
There are many more temporary help agencies who work legitimately to fulfill a very real need for clients who need additional workers to smooth out fluctuation product cycles or season shifts. Temporary work also provides workers with flexible lifestyle options, allowing them to achieve a better work-life balance. Many workers receive much needed work experience allowing them to move on to full-time work.
As temporary help agencies are focused on creating an environment that benefits both temporary workers as well as clients it is difficult to stand by and watch these activities give a negative image to the entire industry. Companies that provide temporary workers and pay only in cash are increasing in number every year—and they threaten to disrupt the entire industry. Companies using temporary help agencies currently have no clear way of knowing if the agency they are engaging is legal or not.
As we have an interest in the rules and regulations that affect temporary help agencies we have been very actively involved with the Canadian Government through the entire Bill 148 process, starting with meeting the Special Advisors to giving feedback on Bill 148.
Throughout the process, we proposed a different approach. An approach that would help strengthen protection for workers, bring companies who hire temp workers into the discussion, and one that would help the government weed out players that were trying to skirt the law.
We proposed and continue to support the creation a Self Regulatory Organization (SRO) to oversee the activities of temporary help agencies to ensure they meet all government standards. Simply put, the SRO would be responsible to certify that temporary help agencies are operating in compliance with government legislation. Like current self-regulatory organizations, they would have the ability to discipline agencies that do not comply.
Under this approach, clients would be required to hire temporary workers from temporary help agencies certified by the SRO, giving them confidence that they are not dealing with a fly-by-night operator who is trying the skirt the law.
Our proposed approach would not only protect the companies that use temporary help workers, but it would also protect the workers themselves by ensuring that they work for reputable firms. We believe it’s time for a new approach to tackle the issue of temporary workers in a way that benefits the workers and clients alike.
We know it can be done because we have been performing similar activities for temporary help agenciesfor over 20 years. All of our clients (THAs) go through a rigorous process to ensure that they are compliant with government rules and regulations.
The majority of temporary help agenciesthat we work with are small businesses that are unable to internally handle the complex rules and regulations required under the Employment Standards Act, the Labour Relations Act, and from WSIB. We ensure that temporary workers employed by temporary help agencies receive their proper pay stubs and records of employment. We also ensure that the proper mandatory payments for CPP, EHT, EI, WSIB, and PIT are made to the proper government authorities.
We perform safety inspections on client sites to ensure that proper safety training is given to employees and, that the work sites have the proper safety notices for workers. We do not allow cash payments to workers.
Bill 148 does make some changes for temporary workers, but it does not deal with the core issue: companies operating on a cash only basis will continue to exist and will continue to skirt the law. They don’t care about the law in the first place and are likely to continue ignoring the law even after Bill 148 is adopted. In fact, Bill 148 will spur more agencies to operate on a cash basis since the new legislation put more costs on legitimate employers, thereby increasing the profit incentive for illegal agencies, while providing no mechanism to stop the illegal activities.
However, if both sides are required to take some responsibility for temporary workers—the THAs and the companies that hire temp workers—then together we can ensure that temp workers are protected. The SRO would also give temporary workers the ability to know which agencies are approved and operating legitimately and those that are operating outside the law. It is a win for workers, companies, and the government.
It's time for a new approach to ensure fairness for temp workers and for companies.
Stacey Duggan is Chief Operating Officer of The Staffing Edge. The Staffing Edge is Canada’s largest back office solutions provider dedicated to the staffing industry.