precarious employmentCatherine Louli | CUPE Communications

The results of the 2014 CUPE survey revealed the degree to which CUPE members face precarious work.

Nearly 3,000 members representing all regions and sectors were polled. The survey data shows that CUPE’s membership has more women (68 per cent) than the Canadian labour force in general (48 per cent). It also shows that we are older. Canada’s working age population under 35 is 39 per cent, whereas only 21 per cent of CUPE members fit into this category. At the opposite end of the spectrum, 55 per cent of our members are 45 to 64 years old, compared to 32 per cent for the general population.

“Members were divided into four employment precarity classifications, where precarious work describes states of employment that do not have the security or benefits enjoyed in more traditional employment relationships. Precarious employment has real implications in terms of economic well-being,” said CUPE national researcher Margot Young.

In late May, the CBC reported, “new studies from the Organization for Econo­mic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the United Way of Toronto are exposing how precarious work is hurting economies and blocking opportunities for an entire generation of young people. Much of the burden of insecure jobs is falling on youth and they are at greater risk of spending their lives in poverty than the elderly across most developed economies.”

CUPE members in precarious employment were concentrated in permanent part-time, casual, on-call, or contract employment. Many equality-seeking groups are over-represented in precarious or vulnerable classifications, including women, young workers, racialized members, non-citizens and those speaking a language other than English or French at home, as well as those reporting physical or mental conditions.

The Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario (PEPSO) report The Precarity Penalty, states that “how we respond to the challenges created by the changing nature of employ­ment will influence our shared prosperity and the economic health of our region, province and country for years to come. The place to start is acknowledging that change is in our midst, and that it is having significant negative impacts on our workforce and our communities.”

Young said “the conclusions on precarious work couldn’t be clearer: as precarious works becomes more prevalent, inequality grows. Having a union on your side makes your job and your workplace safer and fairer. Unionized workers are paid better and are more likely to have benefits that help you balance work with life at home.”