Before the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the precarious position of workers across the globe, scholars were bringing awareness to the lack of protections for vulnerable employees. Acadia sociologist Dr. Becky Casey is part of an SSHRC-Funded “Closing the Enforcement Gap Research Team,” headed by York University Politics Professor Leah F. Vosko, that has published an important new book on the enforcement (or lack thereof) of employment standards in Canada.
Through interviews with workers, community advocates and enforcement officials, as well as extensive archival research into decades of ministerial records and administrative data collected by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour, Closing the Enforcement Gap: Improving Employment Standards Protections for People in Precarious Jobs (University of Toronto Press, 2020) explores how workers in Canada have increasingly faced low wages and less representation by unions, while labouring in workplaces that have been transformed through the growth of contracting-out, franchising and extended supply chains. While “employment standards” set minimum terms and conditions for issues like wages, working hours and termination, these standards are not strictly enforced and frequently violated.
Through this research, Dr. Casey and her colleagues are identifying gaps between legislated standards and the enforcement of such standards as a means of protecting workers. According to Dr. Casey, the lessons learned while doing the research for Closing the Enforcement Gap can be useful in understanding what is happening in Nova Scotia where employment standards have not kept pace with troubling workplace trends. (Read Dr. Casey’s report here)
A very readable work, while relying heavily on statistics provided by the province of Ontario, Closing the Enforcement Gap also has chapters on Britain, Australia, and the United States that put the Canadian situation in a broader international context. It is, as one reviewer noted, a “must to read for everyone who wants to understand why violations of basic workplace laws are everyday occurrences.”