Ford government proposing crack down on abuse against temporary workers

By Michael Ranger

The Ford government is set to crack down on agencies supplying temporary workers in hopes of putting an end to what the labour minister is calling “modern day slavery.”

New legislation is on the way that will aim to give temporary workers more protection.

The proposed legislation will see agencies and recruiters provincially vetted and will require them to have a licence to operate. They will also be required to provide a letter of credit and in the event of wage theft or illegal recruitment fees, that bond can be used to recover the worker’s money.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton is also promising tougher fines and the province is proposing to hire a dedicated team of officers to crack down on agencies and recruiters that are “exploiting and trafficking” workers.

“If you’re not following the rules, we can and we will shut you down,” said McNaughton in a news conference on Monday morning.

McNaughton says many vulnerable temporary workers are victims of wage theft, being charged illegal placement fees, paid less than minimum wage and being denied overtime or vacation pay.

“They also found recruiters charging workers illegal hiring fees, then clawing back their pay.”

McNaughton says many of the workers being taking advantage of are women and come from racialized or low-income communities.

“We’ve seen over the past number of years really horrific situations,” he says. “I’ve compared it to modern day slavery here in Ontario.”

In the last year, government inspections of temp agencies have identified more than $3 million dollars in unpaid entitlements owed to workers. McNaughton says there are more than 3,000 agencies in the province, and the vast majority operate ethically, but some are bad actors.

The proposed licensing requirement would go into effect by 2024.

With files from CityNews reporter Kevin Misener

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