Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ain't I a person?

According to the Canadian Labour Relations Act 1995 " Every person is free to join a trade union of the person’s own choice and to participate in its lawful activities"

But, according to the current Ontario Work Act
No person shall do any of the following with respect to his or her participation in a community participation activity:
1. join a trade union
2. have the terms and conditions under which he or she participates determined through collective bargaining
3. strike

Community participation activities refer to what is commonly known as workfare, where recipients of Ontario Works must participate in low-waged or even slave labor (sorry volunteer work) in order to remain eligible for benefits. I guess not every person is allowed to join a trade union.... or maybe poor people just don't count as people at all.

Participants are also banned from attending post-secondary institutions.

So, not allowed to participate in many of the activities that will help find 'good' jobs. It's a good thing the program's mandate does not involve helping people become employed or effectively serving people needing assistance.... oh, wait a minute... it does. I guess the mandate to be accountable to taxpayers of Ontario (cheap) is more important.


  1. Canadian charter of rights.

    2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
    (d) freedom of association.

    supreme court has ruled that joining a union is freedom of association.

  2. According to the Ontario Works handout "Participation Agreements and your Ontario Works assistance" it states that you can change your participation agreement with your worker if there are certain activities you cannot do in your agreement. One of those reasons are "if you are a member of a union or professional association, you should not have to do placements that go against its conditions of membership".

    It does say that the placements cannot be longer then 6 months and cannot be more then 8 hours a day, 44 hours a week, or 70 hours a month. Maybe it's this reason for not allowing them to join a union if the hours at the company exceed this.

  3. if that is the case, why do we not allow people who are on Ontario Works to be part of a union, benefit from their collective agreement, or strike?

    Generally speaking, being part of a union would ensure that a person no longer needed Ontario Works because they may receive enough pay, but what about, for example, single mothers who work part-time in retail or other areas of the service industry that happen to be represented by unions? And now recipients of 'Ontario Works' can be forced to volunteer (free) at a unionized workplace, thereby replacing workers who would otherwise be part of the union.

    This really isn't making sense to me. Is Ontario Work really able to deny people something that, as pointed out above, is guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

  4. The labour relations act was able to do just that to agricultural workers. It might just be a matter of challenging the charter.

  5. Here via Feministe and WHAT AUGH. Thank you so much for writing about this; I'm an Ontarian, have been on OW and probably will be again, and didn't even know!

  6. "Paticipants are also banned from attending post-secondary institutions".

    Is this new? I really thought my best friend from childhood's mom was on welfare while she got her B.A. Unless she was using OSAP to support four children and pay tuition? That's a lot of debt.

  7. It was common in the pre-Harris era... but now the Ontario Works Act 1997 states

    No single person who is in full-time attendance at a post-secondary educational institution is eligible for assistance if the person,

    (a) is in receipt of a loan under the Ministry of Colleges and Universities Act or the Canada Student Loans Act;

    (b) is not eligible for a loan under one of those Acts because of the level of parental income, as determined under that Act; or

    (c) is not eligible for a loan under one of those Acts because of a default in the payment of a previous loan under one of those Acts

    This covers pretty much anyone attending post-secondary. The wording has been amended, but the effects remain, I used the original wording here because it states much more explicitly the point that has since become hidden, but remains just as existing.

    As a parent and university student, I know all about debt... have about $45,000 in OSAP right now, and I am about to begin grad school. So, if there are no scholarships for me, who knows what will happen to that debt load. It could easily exceed $60,000 if I rely solely on OSAP by the time I am finished. How exactly do I pay that back while supporting and feeding my children?