Saturday, March 21, 2009

Equal Pay For Work of Equal Value? Not with Ontario's LCBO

Ontario's economy has been decimated by the current recession, everyone not living under a rock knows that. The manufacturing base is bleeding jobs, with Premier Dalton McGuinty talking a good game about supporting beleaguered industries hit hard by these economic times. There never seems to be a shortage of dollars available to help the auto sector, be it good times or bad. Ontario's government has often ponied up hundreds of millions in loans and grants to assist the automotive industry. Regardless now the very survival of companies like GM and Chrysler is in question.

Meanwhile the LCBO, an Ontario crown corporation, engages in labour practices which fly totally in the face of McGuinty's oft stated objective of bringing decent paying jobs to this province. Rather than providing full time employment, the LCBO is happy to employ busloads of temporary staff and pay them a paltry $10 per hour. This might be understandable if workers were only needed for short periods of time, say during the holiday rush. But such is not the case, in fact at their Durham distribution centre there are workers who have been engaged for years at a time through temp agencies.

The LCBO actually has four classes of workers: Full-time permanent, Seasonal, Casual and Temporaries. While the classifications of seasonal, casual and temp might suggest they're not working full time fact they are. The varying designations allow the LCBO to pay divergently different wages to each category of worker. Full timers earn about $25 per hour and have the most job security, seasonals earn in and around the 20 dollar mark, casuals are down around $13 with temps earning a pathetic $10.

Employees doing the same job side by side are not being paid equally for work of equal value, far from it.

While line workers employed by the big 3 continue to earn about $35 per hour (those lucky enough to still be employed) LCBO workers are forced to survive on as little as $10. And the LCBO, unlike North American auto makers, is a cash cow. Last year profits were reported at just over $1 Billion on revenue of roughly $4 Billion.

If Dalton wants to help out the auto giants, that's all well and good. But he should also remember charity begins at home. How can Ontario expect the private sector to treat its employees well, and to compensate them reasonably, when the province itself makes major coin on the backs of underpaid staff?

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