What about Wage Theft?

January 25, 2023

Wage theft and other infractions of Labour Standards are an all-too-common occurrence that nobody wants to talk about, and nothing angers me more than knowing how powerless victims of wage theft are. Not only can workers quickly lose wages when employers don’t comply with labour laws, but often they risk their jobs by speaking out and filing a complaint to the authorities. It’s disheartening to note that cases of wage theft in the media are rare; employers often get away with it more often than not.

This highlights the need for better protection of workers’ rights, be it through the fair implementation of the law already in place or additional policy measures that heavily penalize perpetrators. Wage theft must not be accepted. Wage theft has been going on for far too long. Most people don’t realize the everyday reality of workers who are victims of wage theft. It is especially problematic when those most vulnerable, women, immigrants, and people of colour, are taken advantage of.

Employees routinely do not provide pay for overtime and holiday/vacation pay, and some even pay less than minimum wage. These heinous acts of mistreatment need to be stopped. Workers must be fairly compensated for the services they provide. The rules must be modernized. We all must ensure worker exploitation doesn’t continue any longer. It is unacceptable that our provinces fail to provide safeguarding for workers by actively ignoring wage theft and other unlawful practices. This disregards the rights of all workers to a fair wage for their work hours and encourages unethical employers to offer less healthy work environments.

It’s as profoundly shameful we have many workers exempt from Labour Standards. Sadly, we have seen this injustice more recently with waves of immigrants arriving in our Province and Country. They are vulnerable to mistreatment due to a lack of awareness of their rights and language barriers. We must ensure they receive equal protection and benefits while contributing what they can with their labour. We must fight for better enforcement regarding precarious employment, particularly among immigrant workers. Right now, enforcement of the Employment Standards Act is complaint-driven, which means it does not proactively happen.

With the fear of retaliation and other barriers commonly experienced by workers. Complaining must be an easy process that any employee can do without requiring legal assistance. We must ensure that workers are protected and treated fairly in the workplace.

Furthermore, inspectors must have adequate legal access to a workplace’s premises and the employer’s books and be given the right to question other workers in the workplace. Finally, the complaints process must maintain the safety of the worker making the complaint and provide anonymity if needed. The method of complaining must be streamlined and efficient to prove effective. It is essential to have systems that ensure established rules can be upheld. Policies that remain simply on paper or lack any actual enforcement will not protect workers. There needs to be more common sense in devising legislation that cannot be enforced or requires more inspectors to carry out the work.

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