June 11, 2018 7:54 pm

Precarious work in Peterborough is more prevalent than you might think

New report looks at employment and working conditions of workers in Peterborough

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According to a recent report specific to the Peterborough job market, 64 percent of workers in the region, it suggests, are working under vulnerable or precarious conditions.

The study is being spearheaded by Peterborough Public Health and involves several community organizations, who together have started the Precarious Employment Research Initiative (PERI). This month, they have released a third report looking at the working conditions of precarious employment and its effects on the worker.

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The goal is to release eight briefings and identify how employment and working conditions are impacting the economic, social, physical and mental health of workers in the community.

“We know that people who are likely to be vulnerable or precariously employed have far more income instability,” said health promoter Monique Beneteau with Peterborough Public Health.

“Those in precarious work don’t know what their work schedules are going to look like for two, three weeks in advance, which means they don’t know how much income they are going to bring in.”

The PERI study took a sample of 800 residents, all between the ages of 18 and 70, who had been employed at least three months prior to receiving the call. Of the respondents, 388 identified as male and 412 identified as female, and the average age of survey respondents was 43 years old.

The study has already yielded a pair of reports, one dealing with an overview of the study and the other looking at employment security issues.

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Precarious work can mean part-time work with no guaranteed shifts. Beneteau suggested that not knowing your shifts or the income you’ll collect from week to week impacts your ability to plan ahead, and the economic effects can also play on the physical and mental health of workers.

“The next briefing coming up will be on health, work stress, the impact on children, and household well-being, and even community participation,” said Beneteau. “If you’re precariously employed, how active can you be in your community?”

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Peterborough and District Labour Council is a partner on the study and helped fund some of the research. President Marion Burton was startled by the numbers, which showed 64 per cent of workers in the community fall under precarious work conditions, and she said unionization is the answer as it helps protect the worker.

“Unionization hovers around 30 per cent,” said Marion Burton, president of the Peterborough Labour Council. “It has declined somewhat in the last 30 years, but there has been a lot of austerity measures brought into play by various governments that make it harder for unions to be formed.

“We would like that to change, although I’m not sure it’s going to happen under this government we just elected.”

As part of the precarious work study, there is a survey that workers can fill out to determine how precarious their job might be. The survey can be found at the Peterborough Public Health website.

The next study will focus on employment and health and will be released later this month.

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